Cuba asserts right to grant refuge to US dissidents like Assata Shakur

June 22, 2017
Assata Shakur. Photo: Adama Delphine Fawundu.

Cuba defended its sovereign right to grant protection and asylum to US dissidents, civil rights fighters and persecuted persons, rebuffing the demand of US President Donald Trump that the Caribbean nation return so-called US "criminals" to the country as a precondition for the resumption of neighbourly relations between the long-time foes.

“In tune with the national legislation and international law, and Latin America's tradition, Cuba has granted political asylum or refuge to civil rights fighters from the United States,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez stated at a Havana press conference on June 19.

On June 16, the US head of state signed the Presidential Memorandum of National Security on Strengthening US Policy Towards Cuba, in a move denounced by Cuban newspaper Granma as "a return to imperialist rhetoric and unilateral demands."

During Trump's speech, the former reality TV personality called on the socialist government to abandon its obligations under international law to respect the human rights of refugees threatened by persecution.

Trump specifically demanded that Cuba repatriate iconic Black freedom fighter Assata Shakur, formerly named Joanne Chesimard, who escaped prison after facing years of incarceration for the trumped up charges of murdering New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster in 1973, charges she has always denied.

On the 40th anniversary of her arrest, in May 2013, Shakur was named on the FBI “Most Wanted Terrorists” list.

The trial and jailing of Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, came amid the FBI's notorious Cointelpro, or counter-intelligence program, which sought to systematically liquidate social movement organisers and militants perceived as “radicals” or “extremists,” the catch-all terms applied by the US government to groups defending the rights of oppressed nationalities and peoples within the United States.

Rodriguez stressed Cuba's position that refugees such as Shakur are absolutely ineligible for return to US authorities. “Certainly, those people will not be returned to the United States, which lacks legal, political and moral foundations to demand their return,” he noted.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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