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Mexico Rejects France's Criticism Over Jailed Woman's Case

Picture taken on January 22, 2008 of French national Florence Cassez listening to her lawyer (not in frame) in prison in Mexico City

Mexico has rejected France's criticism of a Mexican court decision to keep a French woman in prison on kidnapping charges.

The Mexican Foreign Ministry said it "deeply regrets" that the French foreign minister believes the relationship between the two countries could be affected by the issue. It also said it rejects the assertion that there has been a "denial of justice."

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie reacted strongly to the court's rejection Thursday of an appeal by Florence Cassez, calling it deplorable and saying it could affect bilateral relations.

Cassez was arrested in 2005, along with her Mexican boyfriend, at a ranch where three people were being held hostage, including a young girl. She was convicted of kidnapping and originally sentenced to 96 years behind bars, before the term was reduced to 60 years.

Cassez claims she was unaware that her then-boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, was holding hostages at the ranch.

The Mexican appeals court Thursday rejected her lawyers' arguments that her case was tainted by media coverage, saying Cassez was proven guilty and the coverage did not have any impact on the conviction.

The case sparked controversy after police admitted to staging a dramatic raid of the ranch for television cameras. In the video, officers appear to rescue hostages and arrest the alleged kidnappers, including Cassez, who was actually arrested a day earlier outside the ranch.

Mexico has rejected a call from France to allow Cassez to serve the remainder of her sentence in her homeland.

Mexico has a high rate of kidnappings for ransom. Victims are often killed even after the ransom is paid.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.