Monday, December 22, 2014

Right-wing New Jersey Governor Grills Obama Over African American Revolutionary in Cuba
David Jackson, USA TODAY 1:54 p.m. EST
December 22, 2014

One of the many issues to be faced as the United States and Cuba seek to normalize relations: Extraditing American fugitives from Cuba.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is demanding the return of one of the United States designated most notorious fugitives on Cuban soil, Black Liberation Movement leader Assata Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard.

In a letter to President Obama this weekend, Christie -- a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016 -- said the U.S. should require Shakur's return "before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government."

Returning Shakur, falsely convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973, would be a sign of good faith on Cuba's part, Christie wrote to Obama.

"I do not share your view that restoring diplomatic relations without a clear commitment from the Cuban government of the steps they will take to reverse decades of human rights violations will result in a better and more just Cuba for its people," Christie wrote. "However, despite my profound disagreement with this decision, I believe there is an opportunity for Cuba and its government to show the American people it is serious about change."

The return of fugitives is one of the issues on the U.S-Cuban agenda, said Obama administration officials.

"We will continue to press in our engagement with the Cuban government for the return of U.S. Fugitives in Cuba to pursue justice for the victims of their crimes," said Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council.

The FBI's Newark Division also released a statement, saying it "is in close contact with our law enforcement and intelligence community partners" regarding the former Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army member.

"As long as there is an active warrant for Joanne 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," said Newark Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford.

He added: "The FBI will continue to utilize all available resources in our attempt to apprehend Joanne Chesimard, no matter where in the world she is located."

"Chesimard was found guilty but escaped from prison and eventually fled to Cuba, where she was granted asylum by Fidel Castro. She is now living as Assata Shakur and is the first woman placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist List.

Christie said Cuba's decision to grant Shakur asylum 'is an affront to every resident of our state, our country, and in particular, the men and women of the New Jersey State Police, who have tirelessly tried to bring this killer back to justice.'"

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