Cuba Says it Has a Right to Grant Asylum to US Fugitives
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba said Monday that it has a right to grant asylum to U.S. fugitives, the clearest sign yet that the communist government has no intention of extraditing America’s most-wanted woman despite the warming of bilateral ties.
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 in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Asked if returning fugitives was open to negotiation, Cuba’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press 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.
“There’s no extradition treaty in effect between Cuba and the U.S.,” she added.
In a letter to the White House made public 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.”
Later Monday, during a live interview with a local television anchor, Christie responded to Vidal‘s statement that Cuba has the right to grant to political asylum to those who have been persecuted.
“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,” he said.
He added, “these thugs in Cuba have given her political asylum for 30 years. It’s unacceptable.”
Feature Continues Here: Cuba to Remain Safe Haven
Editor’s Note: Josefina Vidal was thrown out of the United States in May 2003 as part of a mass expulsion of 14 Cuban spies serving under diplomatic cover. For previous stories on this spy, use the search icon.