New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wants to ban flights from New Jersey to Cuba until Assata Shakur (formerly known as Joanne Chesimard), who was convicted in 1977 for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper and fled to Cuba in 1984, is returned to the United States.
"It is unacceptable to me as governor to have any flights between New Jersey and Cuba until and unless convicted cop killer and escaped fugitive Joanne Chesimard is returned to New Jersey to face justice," Christie wrote in a letter to Port Authority of New York & New Jersey chief John Degnan and viewed by the New York Post.
Christie is demanding that the Port Authority not allow direct flights from Newark Liberty International Airport to Havana until Shakur is returned. "I will not tolerate rewarding the Cuban government for continuing to harbor a fugitive," Christie wrote, according to the Post.
In 1973, New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster was shot and killed with his own gun after a traffic stop involving Shakur and two members of the Black Liberation Army. Shakur was wounded in the shootout, and Zayd Shakur, the driver of the car, was killed.
Assata Shakur was tried and convicted in 1979, and although the state was unable to prove that she ever fired a gun, she was sentenced to 26 to 33 years in state prison. Later that same year, three members of the BLA were visiting Shakur when they reportedly took two guards hostage, stole a prison van and broke Shakur out.
Her whereabouts were unknown until 1984, when it was reported that Shakur was living in Cuba. That same year, Cuban officials gave Shakur political asylum.
In the spring, President Barack Obama noted that while seeking fugitives who have fled persecution by taking up residence in Cuba would be nice, it wouldn't hinder diplomatic relations between the two countries. "We believe that the strong U.S. interest in the return of these fugitives will be best served by entering into this dialogue with Cuba," Obama said.
In an earlier letter to the president, Christie voiced his outrage over the decision to pursue diplomatic relations without having the Assata situation resolved. "Cuba's provision of safe harbor to Chesimard by providing political asylum to a convicted cop killer … is an affront to every resident of our state, our country, and in particular, the men and women of the New Jersey State Police," he wrote, the Post reports.
According to the Post, this summer "Jet Blue opened weekly direct flights to Havana from JFK."
In 2013 Shakur, 68, was added to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list with a reported $2 million bounty for her capture, the Post notes.
Read more at the New York Post.