By JOHN RICE | Associated Press Writer
President Fidel Castro has rejected calls to hand over a black militant convicted in 1973 of killing a New Jersey state trooper, saying she’s a victim of racial persecution and not a terrorist, as U.S. officials declared recently.
“They wanted to portray her as a terrorist, something that was an injustice, a brutality, an infamous lie,” Castro said in a television address Tuesday night.
While Castro did not identify the woman by name, he was clearly alluding to Assata Shakur — the former Joanne Chesimard — who was put on a U.S. government terrorist watch list May 2. On the same day, New Jersey officials announced a $1 million reward for her capture.
Castro’s remarks were his first comment on the new U.S. actions.
A member of the Black Liberation Army, Shakur, 57, was convicted of killing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster as he lay on the ground. She escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba.
Castro referred to her as a victim of “the fierce repression against the black movement in the United States” and said she had been “a true political prisoner.”
“They have always been hunting her, searching for her because of the fact that there was an accident in which a policeman died,” Castro said, reflecting Shakur’s assertion that she did not shoot the officer.
Castro said an appeal for her expulsion had been raised with him several years ago by a woman who was both “a friend of Cuba” and a friend of former President Clinton.
“I transmitted my opinion to the president of the United States,” he said, though he did not specify who raised the issue nor when she visited. He made clear the case involved New Jersey.
Castro suggested that the action was meant to divert attention from Cuba’s demand that U.S. officials arrest Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted in Venezuela on charges of involvement in blowing up a civilian Cuban jetliner in 1976, killing 73 people.
His attorney has said that Posada, a former CIA employee, slipped into the United States and is seeking asylum. Posada denies any role in the airplane attack.
Castro, in a televised appearence Wednesday that lasted four hours, stepped up his denunciations of the U.S. government for failure to arrest Posada.
Castro read summaries of newly released U.S. intelligence documents linking Posada and other anti-Castro militants to terrorist attacks beyond the 1976 bombing of a jetliner that killed 73 people.
The Cuban leader previously has called for a massive rally on May 17 in front of the U.S. Interests Section, or diplomatic mission, to demand the arrest of Posada.
He dedicated most of Tuesday’s remarks to descriptions to numerous terrorist actions that Cuba alleges Posada and his anti-Castro associates have committed over the past 35 years.
Castro referred to earlier published suggestions that Posada and Florida-based exile Orlando Bosch could have been involved in the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
“There are strange things, very strange, mixed up here,” Castro said.