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Changing U.S.-Cuba relations could bring return of criminals

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NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Thursday, April 16, 2015, 8:20 PM

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Joanne Chesimard killed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973. She escaped jail and is living in Cuba as Assata Shakur.

Enlarge New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster was killed during a traffic stop in 1973. AP

New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster was killed during a traffic stop in 1973.

Enlarge

Joanne Chesimard (l.) killed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster (r.) in 1973. She escaped jail and is living in Cuba as Assata Shakur.

The normalization of U.S.-Cuban relations could mean a drastic change for two most-wanted American fugitives after decades of living free on the island nation.

President Obama’s call to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism opened the door for the possible extradition of cop killer Joanne Chesimard and terrorist bombmaker Guillermo Morales.

“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.

Both Chesimard and Morales escaped the U.S. in 1979 after their arrests: he through a window in the prison ward at Bellevue Hospital, and she from a New Jersey prison with the help of armed comrades.

Black Liberation Army member Chesimard, placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List in 2013, was convicted 40 years earlier for the murder of state Trooper Werner Foerster during a New Jersey Turnpike traffic stop.

A 2005 reward poster from the New Jersey State Police announces the federal reward of $  1 million for the capture of convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard. AP

A 2005 reward poster from the New Jersey State Police announces the federal reward of $ 1 million for the capture of convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard.

Enlarge Assata Shakur, formerly Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba. AP

Assata Shakur, formerly Joanne Chesimard, escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba.

Enlarge

Foerster’s widow declined comment Thursday on the Chesimard case.

Morales was associated with the FALN, a Puerto Rican separatist group long linked to a deadly 1975 explosion at the landmark Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan.

Chesimard arrived in Havana in 1984, while Morales — who was imprisoned for several years in Mexico — was believed to have reached Cuba in June 1988.

Cuban officials did not react to the Obama administration’s comments about the two fugitives. But lawyers for both Morales and Chesimard say their extradition is unlikely.

Guillermo Morales was associated with the FALN, a Puerto Rican separatist group long linked to a deadly 1975 explosion at the landmark Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan. He also escaped to Cuba.

Guillermo Morales was associated with the FALN, a Puerto Rican separatist group long linked to a deadly 1975 explosion at the landmark Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan. He also escaped to Cuba.

The two were formally granted political asylum in Cuba, making their return to the U.S. a difficult proposition.

New Jersey Republicans, including Gov. Christie, condemned the President for extending an olive branch to Cuba while Chesimard remained free in its capital.

“It is a national disgrace that this President would even consider normalizing relations while they are harboring a terrorist murderer who belongs in prison in New Jersey,” said Christie.

Chesimard, now living under the name Assata Shakur, released an open letter earlier this year describing herself as “a 20th-century escaped slave.”

“Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate the U.S. government’s policy toward people of color,” said Chesimard, the godmother of late rapper Tupac Shakur.

A group of New Jersey members of Congress introduced legislation in Washington to block any change in U.S. relations with Cuba unless Chesimard is returned.

“She must be extradited to the U.S. before we can begin to talk about any normalization in U.S.-Cuban relations,” said Rep. Chris Smith (D-N.J.), the bill’s chief sponsor.

The New Jersey state police are also resolute in calling for her extradition.

lmcshane@nydailynews.com

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