Cuba says asylum for fugitives legitimate right
Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign to date that the Communist government has no intention of extraditing America’s mostwanted woman despite the warming of bilateral relations.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has urged President Barack Obama to demand the return of fugitive Joanne Chesimard before restoring full relations under a historic detente announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro last week.
Chesimard was granted asylum by Fidel Castro after she escaped from the prison where she was serving a sentence for killing a New Jersey state trooper.
Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press Monday that “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,” Vidal said. She added, “There’s no extradition treaty in effect between Cuba and the U.S.”
In a letter sent to the White House Friday and made public by his office Sunday, Christie said Cuba’s asylum for Chesimard, who has changed her name to Assata Shakur, was “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.”
The first woman ever placed on the FBI’s most-wanted terrorist list was living so openly in Havana that her number was long listed in the phone book.
With the New Jersey State Police, the FBI is offering a $2-million reward for information leading to Shakur’s capture.
Assata Shakur — formerly Joanne Chesimard — was convicted in 1973 of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. She escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba.