Should freedom fighter Assata face judgement in the US?
New Jersey Officials Want Assata Shakur To Face Extradition
State authorities today said they hope the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations announced by the president will aid the capture and return of Joanne Chesimard (Assata Shakur), who escaped prison and fled to the island nation after being convicted of killing a N.J. State Police trooper.
“We view any changes in relations with Cuba as an opportunity to bring her back to the United States to finish her sentence for the murder of a New Jersey State Trooper in 1973,” State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said in a statement.
Chesimard, a member of the Black Liberation Army, was convicted in 1977 of murdering Trooper Werner Foerster during a gunfight after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike. She was sentenced to life in prison, but two years later escaped.
After hiding out for years, Chesimard resurfaced in Cuba in the mid-1980s and was granted asylum by the nation’s former leader, Fidel Castro. Since then, she has been living under the protection of the Castro family and going by the name Assata Shakur.
State authorities have made numerous efforts to extradite her, including an appeal to Pope John Paul II, who made a historic trip to Cuba in 1998. In 2013, she was the first woman named to the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list, indicating state and U.S. law enforcement consider her one of the greatest threats to the American government.
The FBI and the State Police are offering $2 million for information leading to her capture.
“We continue to work closely with the FBI towards the capture of Joanne Chesimard, a convicted felon and fugitive who escaped from jail in 1979 and remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List, as well as New Jersey’s Most Wanted List,” Fuentes said. “We stand by the reward money and hope that the total of two million dollars will prompt fresh information in the light of the altered relationship.”
Acting state Attorney General John Hoffman echoed Fuentes’ statement.
“With the president’s announcement today on easing relations with Cuba, we remain ever hopeful in our resolve to bring Joanne Chesimard to justice,” Hoffman said. “We will be working closely with federal authorities as we explore ways to apprehend her and return her to her rightful place in a New Jersey prison.”
In an afternoon speech today, President Barack Obama said he had begun a process to normalize relations with Cuba, including opening an embassy there and working more closely on issues such as human trafficking and counter-terrorism.
The special agent in charge of the FBI in Newark, Aaron Ford, said the organization “will continue to utilize all available resources in our attempt to apprehend Joanne Chesimard, no matter where in the world she is located.”
“As long as there is an active warrant for … Chesimard, the FBI will continue to pursue justice, regardless of how long it takes, and are hopeful any changes in relations between the United States and Cuba, will assist us with her apprehension and return,” Ford said.
A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie declined comment.
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