Cuban Government Refuses to Return N.J. Cop-Killer Chesimard, Report Says 5

Posters are arranged before a press conference about fugitive domestic terrorist Joanne Chesimard by the New Jersey State Police and the FBI at the FBI office in Newark on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger

Posters are arranged before a press conference about fugitive domestic terrorist Joanne Chesimard by the New Jersey State Police and the FBI at the FBI office in Newark on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger

By Paul Milo |  NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Cuba will not turn fugitive Joanne Chesimard over to the United States, where she was convicted of the 1973 killing a New Jersey state trooper, a Cuban government representative told Yahoo News.

The official, Gustavo Machin, told Yahoo that the subject is “off the table” despite calls from Garden State lawmakers including Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) demanding the return of the 67-year-old Chesimard, who remains on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

While a member of a radical group, the Black Liberation Army, Chesimard and two others gunned down Trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop. Two years after her 1977 conviction, Chesimard escaped from prison and fled to Cuba, which has been providing her sanctuary ever since.

Chesimard’s case gained renewed interest in December, when President Obama announced a thawing of relations with one of the world’s last remaining communist nations. But amid the fanfare immediately following Obama’s announcement, the State Police and elected officials demanded Chesimard be turned over as a condition of any change in status between the two countries. Diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States were largely severed a half-century ago following a communist uprising led by Fidel Castro.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week, Menendez said refusing to hand over Chesimard is “is an intolerable insult to all those who long to see justice served.”

Editor’s Note:  Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Gustavo Machin was thrown out of the US in retaliation for the Ana Belen Montes spy case.

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Expelled Spy-Diplomat Josefina Vidal Says Cuba to Remain Safe Haven For US Terrorists & Criminals 7

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal, thrown out of the US in May 2003 for espionage.

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer Josefina Vidal, thrown out of the US in May 2003 for espionage.

Cuba Says it Has a Right to Grant Asylum to US Fugitives

By Michael Weissenstein and Andrea Rodriguez, Associated Press

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.

Christie to Obama: Get Chesimard From Cuba 2

Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. (Photo: Associated Press)

Assata Shakur, the former Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. (Photo: Associated Press)

William Westhoven, @Wwesthoven, Daily Record

Gov. Chris Christie has joined the growing call by New Jersey leaders demanding that Cuba return fugitive cop-killer JoAnne Chesimard as part of any negotiations the United States enters to normalize relations with its long-estranged neighbor.

The governor’s office issued a release on Sunday that included a copy of a letter sent by Christie to President Barak Obama, dated Dec. 18, urging him to “demand the immediate return of Chesimard before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government.”

“Cuba’s provision of safe harbor to Chesimard by providing political asylum to a convicted cop killer, and her ability to elude justice, 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,” Christie wrote.

Christie wrote he did not share the president’s hopes that opening relations would reverse decades of human-rights abuse under the Castro regime, but that current developments provide the opportunity for Cuba to prove it is serious about change by sending Chesimard back to New Jersey.

“I ask you to use this opportunity to engage with the Cuban government to get this resolved, and I am very disappointed that returning a convicted killer of a police officer was not already demanded and accomplished in the context of the steps you announced regarding this dictatorship,” Christie wrote. “The family of her victims, like so many of those who have, and continue to suffer under the Castro regime, deserve this basic decency before further steps toward Cuba are taken by this government.”

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, (R-Harding), Sen. Robert Menendez and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes led a strong negative response from New Jersey leaders in the immediate aftermath of Obama’s historic announcement on Wednesday of a prisoner swap and new efforts to open relations with Cuba for the first time since a trade embargo was established 54 years ago.

At issue was the return of Chesimard, a former member of the revolutionary Black Liberation Army convicted of murdering New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. Following her 1977 trial in New Brunswick, before a jury selected from Morris County residents, she escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County on Nov. 2, 1979, in a brazen breakout executed by three armed BLA members.

Feature continues here: America’s Most Wanted