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Mexican Supreme Court Denies Freedom for French Prisoner

Charlotte Cassez (L) and lawyer Franck Berton speak to the media after the announcement by the Mexican courts about the fate of her daughter, Florence Cassez, March 21, 2012.

Mexico's Supreme Court has rejected a plea to release a Frenchwoman serving a 60-year prison sentence for kidnapping, but did not dismiss her claims that her rights were violated.

The court voted 3-2 Wednesday against granting Florence Cassez an immediate release from prison, but four of the justices said the case should be reviewed because of evidence of misconduct by police and prosecutors.

"To me, the fact that she was denied consular assistance is enough justification for there to be granted an order protecting her civil rights, as her rights were violated," said Mexican Supreme Court Justice Olga Sanchez

The 37-year-old Cassez was arrested in 2005 at a ranch near Mexico City with her then-boyfriend, Israel Vallarta, the leader of a notorious kidnapping gang. Police later acknowledged they delayed granting her access to a lawyer and French consular officials. Instead, they forced her to take part in a staged raid that aired live on national television.

Cassez and the other suspects were arrested hours before the fabricated police raid.

Her lawyer expressed disappointment that she was still in jail, but said the ruling was still a positive development.

"Four justices have recognized the grave violations in the process against Florence Cassez. There are three justices who for now will consider a stay protecting Cassez. What the outcome will be, we still don't know. But I can expect a clear result - that the conviction of Florence Cassez will be annulled. And we will see then how the debate resumes," said attorney Agustin Acostin.

The case has strained relations between Mexico and France, and shed light on the Central American nation's trouble-plagued legal system.

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