US-Cuban Friendship Might Mean Prison for Assata Shakur


The United States and Cuba are friends again? Great. Friends that negotiate the extradition of Assata Shakur, aka JoAnne Chesimard, a Black Panther who was framed for killing a cop in America and found asylum in Cuba? Not great.

As news outlets pour over the details of the U.S. and Cuba mending fences after 53 years, one bit is absolutely bad news. The F.B.I. still has Shakur on their top ten most wanted list and one New Jersey congressman hopes to use this international truce as a way of bringing her back to America and putting her in prison. From New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-Morris:

To me, the New Jersey law enforcement community and many other Americans, one of the biggest impediments to improved relations between the United States and Cuba is the continued safe haven provided to the fugitive, JoAnne Chesimard,” Frelinghuysen stated. “I would demand that the White House and the State Department work much harder to bring this murderer ‘home’ to New Jersey where she can face justice and serve out her sentence.
Chesimard, was convicted of the 1973 execution-style murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster along the New Jersey Turnpike and sentenced to life in prison. She escaped from prison in 1979 and eventually fled to Cuba where she has been provided refuge.

Yeah, that’s why we can’t get along, that damn safe haven for Assata Shakur.

For those who didn’t read Assata: An Autobiography in college, here’s the short version. Born JoAnne Chesimard, Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army and the Black Power Movement. After years of being targeted by COINTELPRO, an FBI group assembled to crush social justice movements, she was arrested in 1973 on the New Jersey Turnpike and a shootout followed, leaving Zayd Shakur, her car’s driver, and a New Jersey State Trooper dead and Assata injured.

Eventually, she was convicted of first degree murder despite investigators finding no gun residue on her hands, none of her fingerprints found on any of the weapons at the scene and physical evidence that she was shot with her hands up, according to the National Lawyers Guild.

In 1979, Shakur escaped from prison to Cuba where she was given asylum. In 2013, the FBI added Shakur to the top ten most wanted list—the first woman, yay?—and upped her ransom from $1 million to $2 million. Who says COINTELPRO is dead and gone?

Hopefully in this time of cops shooting black men with their hands up, choking them to death on camera and gassing those speaking out, President Obama and the U.S. State Department can think of a better use for their diplomatic conversations than ‘Hey, let’s finally imprison that woman America framed nearly 50 years ago.’

Here’s Common’s take on Assata’s story:

Image via New Jersey’s Most Wanted.

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