Cuba says asy­lum for fugi­tives le­git­i­mate right

Metro Canada (Winnipeg) - - WORLD -

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.

NEW JERSEY STATE PO­LICE/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

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.

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