Assata Shakur will not be handed over by Cuba to U.S. authorities as part of the planned normalization of relations between the two countries.
A member of the Black Liberation Army, Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, was convicted by a jury in 1977 of first-degree murder and several other charges in the fatal shooting of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster in May 1973. She was sentenced to life in prison.
With the help of several armed accomplices, Chesimard broke out of jail in 1979 and was on the run for several years. She subsequently made her way to Cuba; Fidel Castro granted her political asylum there in 1984, where she has continued to live openly. Chesimard has denied killing the officer.
In 2013, the FBI added Shakur to the Most Wanted Terrorist List, the first woman to receive that designation.
Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wrote to President Obama asking him to demand the immediate return of Shakur to serve her prison sentence in a U.S. jail as a condition of the restoration of diplomatic relations. “Cuba’s provision of safe harbor to Chesimard by providing political asylum to a convicted cop killer, and her ability to elude justice, is an affront to every resident of our state, our country, and in particular the men and women of the New Jersey State Police…”
Other government officials also have called for the return of Shakur, who is said to be rapper Tupac Shakur’s godmother, from communist Cuba. U.S. law enforcement authorities have offered a $2 million reward for her capture.
Without apparently mentioning anyone in particular, Josefina Vidal, a Cuban government official, signaled this week that is it highly unlikely that Shakur will return to the U.S. “Every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted… That’s a legitimate right. We’ve explained to the U.S. government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum. There’s no extradition treaty in effect between Cuba and the U.S.,” Vidal explained.
When apprised of Vidal’s remarks, which likely ends any possibility that Assata Shakur aka Joanne Chesimard will be sent home, Christie was not pleased. “So Joanne Chesimard, a cold-blooded cop killer, convicted by a jury of her peers, in what is without question the fairest and most just criminal justice system in the world — certainly much more just than anything that’s happened in Cuba under the Castro brothers. She is now, according to an official of the Cuban government, persecuted… these thugs in Cuba have given her political asylum for 30 years. It’s unacceptable,” the governor declared.
[Image via Twitter]