PARIS (Reuters) - France warned Mexico on Thursday that a decision to keep Frenchwoman Florence Cassez in a Mexican prison for her involvement in a kidnapping she denies would weigh on bilateral relations.
Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the rejection of an appeal that could have seen Cassez freed was a “denial of justice.”
Cassez, 36, has served five years of a 60-year prison sentence after being arrested in 2005 with her Mexican boyfriend in a dramatic police swoop — controversially re-staged for television cameras — at a ranch where three people, including a young girl, were being held hostage.
She denied any involvement and received widespread sympathy in France after being handed a 96-year jail term in a case that has gripped French media.
Her term was trimmed to 60 years after President Nicolas Sarkozy, who spoke to her by telephone, brought up the case with Mexican President Felipe Calderon during a 2009 visit.
“I am appalled by the court’s decision to back the judge’s decision on Florence Cassez,” Alliot-Marie said in a statement.
“This decision will weigh on our bilateral relations.”
Kidnapping is rampant in Mexico, a country in the grip of ruthless drug trafficking and organised crime groups, and victims are often murdered even after ransoms are paid.
Cassez’s lawyer in Mexico, Agustin Acosta, said the next step could be with the International Court of Human Rights.
“Obviously she is very upset, very worried, the length of her sentence weighs more all the time. I am also very disappointed, but I am in the street,” he said.
Alliot-Marie, who has fought calls for her resignation this month following a series of blunders, said France would do everything to try and get Cassez released.
Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Isabel de Bertodano; writing by Catherine Bremer; editing by Andrew Roche