The American Fugitives of Havana 2

Assata Shakur - the former Joanne Chesimard.

Assata Shakur – the former Joanne Chesimard.

By Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker

When a cold war winds down, what happens to its spies and traitors? The British double agents Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, and Donald Maclean were able to see out their days in Moscow while it was still ruled by Communists, without fears that their hosts might betray them and send them back to an unforgiving Great Britain.

Other scenarios, such as that of the United States and Cuba, are more complicated. On December 17, 2014, the same day that the United States and Cuba announced the restoration of diplomatic relations, an exchange of long-imprisoned spies and double agents also took place. Three Cuban sleeper agents who had been imprisoned in the U.S. since 1998 were released from U.S. federal prisons and flown home. Simultaneously, Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a C.I.A. double agent who had been held in a Cuban prison since 1995, was flown to the U.S., as was Alan Gross, a State Department contractor who was arrested in 2009 for smuggling Internet equipment onto the island for dissident groups.

But the fates of many fugitive citizens who were given refuge in the United States or Cuba remain in limbo. Among them are people sought back home for crimes including murder, kidnapping, bank robbery, and terrorism. Curious about such people, I recently asked an American official what prevented the U.S. government from arresting, and possibly extraditing, Luis Posada Carriles, an eighty-eight-year-old Cuban exile living in Florida, on terrorism charges.

Posada, a former C.I.A. operative who spent most of the past half century involved in efforts to violently destabilize the Castro government, has been on the top of Cuba’s most-wanted list for decades. I ticked off the long list of his alleged crimes—most notably, the bombing of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455, in 1976, which killed all seventy-three passengers onboard, and a number of bombings and assassination attempts across the Western Hemisphere. As recently as 1997, Posada admitted to planning the bombing of a Havana hotel, which killed an Italian tourist.

The official listened calmly, nodding his head as I spoke. Eventually, he told me, “The complication is that Cuba is also harboring people that the United States would like to see face justice back home.” He mentioned Joanne Chesimard, who goes by the name Assata Shakur, the aunt of the late rapper Tupac Shakur and a former member of the Black Liberation Army, a short-lived offshoot of the Black Panther Party that was devoted to armed struggle.

Shakur, a native New Yorker, has been living in Cuba since 1984. She arrived there after several years on the lam, following her escape from a prison in New Jersey, where she was serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a U.S. state trooper. (She was also tried for but not convicted of crimes including bank robbery, kidnapping, and other murders.) Shakur was granted political asylum in Cuba, where she was given a job and a home. She is now sixty-nine, remains on the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted list, and is the undisputed doyenne of the estimated seventy-odd American fugitives living in Cuba. Her 1987 memoir, “Assata: An Autobiography,” whose cover features a photograph of her looking over her shoulder at the camera, can be found in many of Havana’s state-run bookstores, alongside books about Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

Most of the American fugitives in Cuba are radicals of Shakur’s era. Charlie Hill, who is in his mid-sixties, was a member of a militant group called the Republic of New Afrika, which sought to create an independent black nation in the American South. Hill was accused, with two comrades, of killing a policeman in New Mexico in 1971. Several weeks later, the three men hijacked a passenger plane to Cuba, where they were granted asylum. Both of Hill’s comrades have died, but he remains in Havana. And there is the Columbia University graduate Cheri Dalton, who goes by Nehanda Abiodun, also a veteran of the Republic of New Afrika. Abiodun is sought for her involvement in the armed robbery of a Brink’s armored truck in New York in 1981, in which two policemen and a security guard were killed. She is also thought to have helped Shakur break out of prison. Abiodun, who either fled to Cuba with Shakur or followed shortly after, has reinvented herself there as a mentor to rap artists.

Feature continues here: Cuban Safe Haven

2 comments

  1. Alan “Woe-is-Me” Gross was not helping “dissident groups” but rather Jews, like himself, in Cuba, all of whom later betrayed him and testified against him in court. Gross received more than $500,000 for his ten trips to Cuba and when released from Cuba, the Obama Administration gave him an additional $3.2 million. This masochistic mercenary then called for “closer U.S. ties with Cuba.” http://forward.com/news/breaking-news/326505/alan-gross-calls-for-closer-us-ties-with-cuba/

  2. OPINION

    BEFORE ANYONE ELSE—(ASIDE FROM NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR CHRISTIE AND THE STEERING COMMITTEE AND HOSTS OF PEOPLE WHO DEALT IN THE RECENT PROCESS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH CUBA, PLUS THOSE WHO WROTE A LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON ASSATA SHAKUR´S CASE)—PROCEEDS TO EXPRESS AN OPINION ON ASHATA SHAKUR´S CASE, I BELIEVE, PROPER DUE DILIGENCE MUST BE FIRST CONDUCTED INTO THIS WOMAN´S ACTUAL CASE, AS WAS TRIED BY AN ALL WHITE JURY.

    MORE PARTICULARLY, IN A NATION, SUCH AS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, EVIDENCED AS REPLETE WITH RACISM THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY, TO THE POINT OF HAVING ONCE GONE INTO CIVIL WAR ABOUT THE SUBJECT OF RACISM AND STILL, SUCH RACISM BEING MORE RELEVANT TODAY—IN 2016.

    PLEASE READ, FIRST, THE FOLLOWING LETTER FROM THIS WOMAN´S ATTORNEY BEFORE TAKING AN OPINION ON THIS MATTER:
    _________________________________________________________________________________________________

    FACTS TO THE ASSATA SHAKUR CASE AS PRESENTED DURING HER CASE AND ADJUDGED BY AN ALL WHITE JURY

    Here´s what Assata Shakur´s attorney had to say about the unfair trial this black woman underwent during the days of the reign of J. Edgar Hoover “Director of the FBI for Life”, in a U.S. court of law that made a similar unfair determination and equally unjust as the recent grand jury investigations conducted of the killings that have very recently been conducted in 2014 by policemen in the United States of America, which has serve to create widespread chaos, agony, disgust and widespread civil unrest in this nation.

    “As a member of Assata’s New Jersey trial legal defense team, and her appeal lawyer, I think a correct statement of the circumstances of New Jersey Trooper Werner Foerster’s death as established by exhibits, trial testimony and forensic evidence and that conclusively repudiate the revisionist lies now being advanced by the State of New Jersey as “fact”, need to be repeated.

    It is to be remembered that the only surviving eyewitnesses to the NJ Turnpike shoot-out were (1) Sundiata Acoli, (2) Trooper Harper, (3) Assata and (4) the driver of a car traveling along the NJ Turnpike at the time of the incident. Zayd Malik Shakur, a passenger, was killed during the shootout.

    1.) Sundiata did not testify at trial, nor did he make any pre-trial statements.

    2.) Harper’s testimony and actions are contained in the following documents (admitted into evidence)

    a.) The three official investigative reports prepared by Harper, in which he wrote that after he stopped the Pontiac, he ordered Sundiata to the back of the car to show his driver’s license to Trooper Foerster who had arrived at the scene. That Sundiata complied without incident. That as he looked into the inside door of the Pontiac to check the registration, Foerster yelled at him and held up an ammunition clip. He stated that at the same time Assata reached into a red pocketbook, removed a gun from it and fired at him. That he immediately ran to the rear of his car and fired at Assata, who had emerged from the car, and was firing at him from a prostrate position alongside of the Pontiac. And it was at this point that he shot her. (admitted into evidence)

    b.) His Grand Jury testimony where he swore under oath to the truth of the statements he had made in his 3 official reports. (admitted into evidence)

    c.) Trial transcripts of his testimony at both Sundiata’s and Assata’s trials where he admitted, under cross-examination, that he had lied in all three of his official reports and in his Grand Jury testimony. That the truth was that Foerster had never shown him an ammunition clip; that Foerster had not yelled to him; that he had not seen a gun in Assata’s hand while she was seated in the car; that Assata did not shoot him from the car; and that he had not seen a red pocketbook.

    d.) Audio tapes of the official recorded NJ Turnpike radio communications between all NJ State Trooper cars traveling the Turnpike near the scene of the shoot-out, dated May 2, 1973, which revealed that two additional turnpike patrol cars, those driven by Trooper Robert Palenchar and Trooper Woerner Foerster, had been ordered to aid Harper at the stop prior to the shoot-out. (admitted into evidence)

    e.) The verbatim, hand-written record of what transpired inside the NJ Turnpike Administration Building when Harper entered it at or about 1AM on May 2, 1973, to report the shoot-out to Sergeant Chester Baginski who was in charge of maintaining the official record of turnpike occurrences on that (refereed to as the Station Bible). Harper reported that he had just been involved in a shoot-out after he had stopped a Pontiac containing three Black people, two men and a woman, that he had been wounded, and that the Pontiac was proceeding South on the turnpike. He gave the license plate number, but did not mention that Trooper Foerster had arrived at the scene. (admitted into evidence)

    f.) Audio tapes of the investigation conducted by Detective Sgt. First Class Richard H. Kelly in the Administration Building at 7:37AM that morning to determine why over an hour elapsed from the time Harper entered the Administration Building that night and the discovery of Foerster’s body. Statements by each of the troopers present when Harper came into the Administration Building revealed that Harper had not reported Foerster’s presence at the scene and that no one was aware of the fact that Foerster lay on the road beside his car in front of the Administration building for over an hour, when his body was accidentally discovered by Trooper O’Rourke who had left the Administration building to investigate the scene of the shoot-out, less than 200 yards away. (admitted into evidence)

    3.) Assata testified that Harper stopped the car without any known reason, shot her with her arms raised at his demand, and then shot her in the back as she was turning to avoid his bullets. Almost mortally wounded, and semi-conscious, she climbed into the backseat of the Pontiac to avoid further bullets. Sundiata drove the car five miles down the road and parked it, where she remained until State Troopers dragged her onto the road.

    4.) A driver traveling north along the turnpike at the time of the incident testified at trial that he had seen a State Trooper struggling with a Black man between a parked white vehicle and a State Trooper car whose overhead revolving lights lit up the area. He was unable to identify the Black man, and further stated that he saw no one else on the road or at the scene. He immediately reported what he had seen to New Jersey Police Headquarters.

    It therefore remained only forensic evidence to help determine the facts of that night as much as they could be determined. The forensic evidence examined by both the New Jersey crime laboratory in Trenton, New Jersey and FBI crime laboratories in Washington, D.C. established the following:

    1.) The finger print analyses of every gun and every piece of ammunition found at the scene showed there were no fingerprints of Assata found on any of them. (The official analyses admitted into evidence)

    2.) Neutron Activation Analysis taken immediately after Assata was taken to the hospital that night showed there was no gun power residue on her hands. Effectively refuting the possibility that she had fired a gun. (The official analyses were admitted into evidence)

    3.) As a result of the bullet Harper shot under her armpit, while her arms were raised in, her median nerve was severed, immediately paralyzing her entire right arm, shattering her clavicle, and lodging in her chest so close to her heart that an operation to remove it was not feasible. A neurologist testified to that fact at the trial.

    4.) A pathologist testified that “There is no conceivable way that the bullet could have traveled over to the clavicle if her arm was down. That trajectory is impossible.”

    5.) A surgeon testified that “it was anatomically necessary that both arms be in the air for Ms. Chesimard to have received the wounds she did.”

    The state offered no expert witnesses to refute this medical testimony.

    6.) Photographs depicting the gunshot entry wound under her armpit and the entry would of the bullet Harper shot into her back were admitted into evidence during the trial.

    Therefore, since no evidence existed that proved Assata fired the bullet that killed Trooper Foerster, why was she found guilty of his murder? There are several explanations:

    The first is that the climate of hatred, prejudice and racism that had so contaminated the Middlesex County jury pool in 1973 that a change of venue was ordered, continued to exist in 1977. The unanimous opinion of the 1973 jury pool was “If she’s Black, she’s guilty.” After three defense motions for change of venue, Judge Leon Gerofsky granted the motion, stating, “It was almost impossible to obtain a jury here comprised of people willing to accept the responsibility of impartiality so that defendants will be protected from transitory passion and prejudice.” The trial was then moved to Morris County where Assata’s trial was severed from Sundiata’s because of her pregnancy.

    In 1977 Assata began trial for the second time in this same Middlesex County, and this time jury nullification was insured: The jurors chosen to determine Assata’s guilt or innocence consisted of five jurors who were either relatives or close personal friends of state troopers or of state law enforcement officers.

    However, Assata was not convicted of firing the shot that killed Trooper Foerster. She was convicted as an accomplice to his murder under New Jersey’s “aiding and abetting” statute. Under New Jersey law, if a person’s presence at the scene of a crime can be construed as “aiding and abetting” the crime, that person can be convicted of the substantive crime itself. Judge Theodore Appleby charged the jury that they were permitted to speculate that Assata’s “mere presence” at a scene of violence, with weapons in the vehicle, was sufficient to sustain a conviction of the murder of Trooper Foerster. She was also convicted of possession of weapons – none of which could be identified as having been handled by her and of the attempted murder of Trooper Harper, who had sustained a flesh wound at the time of the shootout.

    Now, 32 years after her conviction, a new, fabricated version of Foerster’s death has emerged:

    There is absolutely no evidence to support statements made by Col. Joseph R. Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, who said that “It was later determined that Werner Foerster’s service weapon was ripped from his holster as he lay wounded on the pavement, and he was executed with two shots to the head from his own service weapon.”

    But his motivation for making those statements is clear:

    1.) To justify Assata being placed on the domestic terror watch list along with Osama bin Ladin. He said, “Anyone with a mindset that would execute a police officer once they were on the ground is dangerous enough to be considered a domestic terrorism threat.” But Assata is the only person convicted of a single domestic crime who has been classified a terrorist and put on the terrorism watch list, thereby nullifying the very definition of “terrorism”

    2.) To justify the $1 million dollar bounty to be paid from tax payers money. He said, “The reward money should make Chesimard a much more attractive quarry for professional bounty hunters.”

    New Jersey State Assembly Speaker, Albio Sires, a longtime member of CANF (Cuban American National Foundation, representing Cuban exiles), said: “If Cuba’s citizenry could be informed of the $1 million bounty and the real story of Chesimard’s crimes, there is an increased likelihood of her being brought to Justice…. We want the Cuban people to know the real story about Joanne Chesimard and not the deceptive representation advanced by the Castro regime. We want people to realize that she is not a hero and she is really a violent criminal who is wanted for killing a State Trooper and escaping justice.”

    By falsely asserting that Assata shot Foerster in the head while he lay helplessly on the ground, killing him “execution style”, the US Justice Department hopes to strip Assata of any of the sympathy and political support she now receives in the United States and from the citizens of Cuba. By labeling her a cold-blooded cop killer, the hope is that the real circumstances of the NJ Turnpike as well as all the years prior to that event during which time Assata was relentlessly hunted with the stated purpose of killing her on sight for having committed crimes of which the government knew she was innocent, will be forgotten.

    But even as official lies are now being manufactured to convert Assata into a terrorist, so that Cuba can be accused of “harboring a terrorist” and to justify kidnapping her, there are, in fact, two well-known and admitted, convicted terrorists who are now being given safe harbor in the United States.

    The US government has refused to extradite admitted terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, (charged with the shoot down of a Cuban airliner in 1976, killing 73 civilians and convicted of other terrorist acts including the Bay of Pigs). The US government has also refused to extradite Posada’s convicted fellow terrorist, Orlando Bosch, who escaped from Venezuela and came to Miami in 1987 with the assistance of the CANF, Jeb Bush and his father, the then US Attorney, Gonzalez, who personally approved the bounty, also approved prisoner torture at Abu Ghreb. Or that the approval came after New Jersey resident, Michael Chertoff, was named Secretary of the Department of Homeland Defense.

    There are the facts. Let us not forget them.”

    Evelyn A. Williams
    Attorney For Assata Shakur
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________

    CONTRASTING CASE IN U.S. HISTORY: THE UNITED STATES HARBORED, ON U.S. SOIL, 1,500 WORLD WAR II CRIMINALS WHO MURDERED 6 MILLION PERSONS AND GAVE THEM CITIZENSHIP.

    Let us examine what this nation did with the murderous officers of the SS who were guilty of having killed 6,000,000 Jews during world war II. We have them save harbor and are now questioning Cuba for giving one woman of black color who was persecuted by issue of racism and wherein the facts prove she did not kill a police officer except a police officer shot her companion killed him and injured her.

    Officers from the Hitler´s SS where part of “Operation Paperclip” which was from the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) program in which over 1,500 German scientists, technicians, and engineers from Nazi Germany and other foreign countries were brought to the United States for employment in the aftermath of World War II. It was conducted by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), and in the context of the burgeoning Cold War. One purpose of Operation Paperclip was to deny German scientific expertise and knowledge to the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, as well as inhibiting post-war Germany from redeveloping its military research capabilities.

    Although the JIOA’s recruitment of German scientists began after the Allied victory in Europe on May 8, 1945, U.S. President Harry Truman did not formally order the execution of Operation Paperclip until August 1945. Truman’s order expressly excluded anyone found “to have been a member of the Nazi Party, and more than a nominal participant in its activities, or an active supporter of Nazi militarism”. However, those restrictions would have rendered ineligible most of the leading scientists the JIOA had identified for recruitment, among them rocket scientists Wernher von Braun, Kurt H. Debus and Arthur Rudolph, and the physician Hubertus Strughold, each earlier classified as a “menace to the security of the Allied Forces”.

    To circumvent President Truman’s anti-Nazi order and the Allied Potsdam and Yalta agreements, the JIOA worked independently to create false employment and political biographies for the scientists. The JIOA also expunged from the public record the scientists’ Nazi Party memberships and regime affiliations. Once “bleached” of their Nazism, the scientists were granted security clearances by the U.S. government to work in the United States. Paperclip, the project’s operational name, derived from the paperclips used to attach the scientists’ new political personae to their “US Government Scientist” JIOA personnel files.

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