Mexico Refuses to Send French Kidnap Convict Home

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Monday that a Frenchwoman convicted of kidnapping will have to serve her 60-year sentence in Mexico, rejecting appeals by France to send her home.

Calderon said his government decided against returning Florence Cassez because France wouldn't guarantee that she would serve the
full sentence.

"The French government said it was reserving the right to suspend, reduce or decide how to implement the sentence," Calderon said. "That's unacceptable to Mexico."

Cassez has acknowledged she lived at a ranch near Mexico City where three kidnap victims were held, including an 8-year-old girl.
But she said she was simply dating a Mexican arrested in the case and did not know the people at the ranch had been kidnapped.

One of the victims, however, identified Cassez as one of her captors, and another suspect in the case said that the Frenchwoman not only participated in abductions, but helped lead the gang that carried them out.

Cassez's imprisonment became a hotly debated issue in France after Mexican police acknowledged they re-staged her capture for news media. French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Mexico in March and persuaded Mexican officials to study the possibility of returning Cassez to France.

France's request to have Cassez serve prison time at home stirred controversy in Mexico, where anti-crime activists and politicians have been demanding tougher sentences to stamp out a wave of kidnappings.

Calderon said his government has "an inexorable commitment" to the fight against crimes that most hurt society.

"I want to make it clear that no one in Mexico, independently of their social or economic condition or their nationality, can evade the law," he said.

Cassez's defense lawyer didn't immediately return calls seeking comment Monday.


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