Latin America & Caribbean

Hollande partner Trierweiler in Mexico kidnap gesture

Florence Cassez behind bars, file picture Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many in France believe Florence Cassez is a victim of a miscarriage of justice

France's first lady has begun sending care packages to a French woman jailed for 60 years in Mexico for kidnapping.

Valerie Trierweiler sent books, chocolates and beauty products to Florence Cassez, the first lady's office told French news agency AFP.

Ms Cassez was sentenced in 2005, in a case that has caused diplomatic tensions between Mexico and France.

In France Ms Cassez is widely seen as innocent, and attracted the support of former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mexican authorities view the case as a victory for law and order, in a country where kidnapping is rife.

Ms Cassez, 37, was arrested in 2005 with her then boyfriend Israel Vallarta at a ranch near Mexico City, where several kidnapping victims were being held.

She continues to protest her innocence, saying she was merely the girlfriend of one of the kidnappers.

Diplomatic row

In March this year, Mexico's Supreme Court rejected calls for her to be immediately released but did say that violations in the case allowed for the possibility of a retrial.

Ms Trierweiler, who has no formal position in her partner President Francois Hollande's administration, plans to send similar packages on a regular basis, her office said.

The move may reignite a diplomatic row over the case.

Mr Sarkozy regularly telephoned Ms Cassez during his term in office, and in 2011 angered Mexican diplomats by dedicating a French festival celebrating Mexican culture to the prisoner.

Now supporters of Ms Cassez hope the gesture indicates President Hollande's willingness to press the case with Mexican authorities.

He is due to meet the incoming Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, in Paris later this month.

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