Could Improved US-Cuban Relations Mean Prison Time for Assata Shakur?

President Obama’s announcement that the United States and Cuba would begin mending a tense international relationship could mean that former Black Panther Assata Shakur, 67, will be extradited back to the United States and sent directly to prison.

New Jersey officials are asking that Shakur—the first woman and second U.S. citizen named to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Terrorists list (the reward for her capture is currently $2 million)—be extradited to the United States where she can finish serving a life sentence for a 1973 conviction for the alleged murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike.

In 1973, Shakur was stopped and arrested on the turnpike. A shootout followed, and Foerster was killed. Shakur was eventually convicted of first-degree murder; however, her fingerprints were never found on the gun, and there was no gunpowder residue on her hands following the shooting.

Many believe that Shakur, born JoAnne Chesimard, was framed by COINTELPRO, a government organization whose mission was to stifle social liberation movements. With the help of the Black Panters, Shakur managed to escape from prison in 1979, and fled to Cuba where then-president Fidel Castro granted her asylum.

“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,” says Republican New Jersey Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen.

“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.”

The White House has yet to address the issue.

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