Not a month has passed since the Patriots' Day bombings in Boston, and the hand-wringers are already mumbling that the FBI made the wrong call when it designated 65-year-old fugitive Assata Shakur, formerly known as Joanne Chesimard, as a terrorist. If words have meanings, of course she is.
That 40 years have passed since her conviction does not dim or erase the impact of her crimes as a member of a radical group known as the Black Liberation Army, which was formed by disgruntled former Black Panther Party members. The Panthers were not radical enough. The liberation army aimed to "take up arms for the liberation and self-determination of black people in the United States."
Assata Shakur and two others took up arms in a gunfight on the New Jersey Turnpike in May 1973. Prosecutors said she shot New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster twice in the head, using the officer's own gun, taken from him when her accomplice tackled him. He left a wife and two children, one of whom, Eric, became a state trooper himself.
After a 1977 murder conviction, armed Black Liberation Army members broke her out of prison. She is thought to have spent four years in "safe houses" in the United States before making her way to Cuba, where Fidel Castro granted her asylum. She has remained in touch with family, friends and supporters, safe so far from extradition and justice.
Eric Foerster decries the life of comfort of his father's killer. The passage of the years has not healed the wound inflicted on his family. "It is a loss that will stay with us forever," he tells Fox News.
The killer is unrepentant; she revels in her crimes. In an open letter to Pope John Paul II, who was visiting in Havana in 1998, she confessed her "guilt" for supporting revolution: "I advocate self-determination for my people and for all oppressed inside the United States. I advocate an end to capitalist exploitation, the abolition of racist policies, the eradication of sexism, and the elimination of political repression. If that is a crime, then I am totally guilty."
That's hardly the only crime of which she is "totally guilty." She was a member of an organization that employed violence to advance a political cause, which is precisely what terrorists do. Her cause has died — interest in the Black Liberation Army has since dissolved — but Assata Shakur has yet to pay for her crimes. Putting a little pressure on the Cuban government for her extradition, while not likely to succeed, is nevertheless the right thing to do.
To compromise, Castro's government wouldn't have to send her out of Cuba. There's already a cell waiting at Guantanamo Bay.
The Washington Times
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