[Ppnews] 1998 Sundiata & CCR on Assata

PPnews at freedomarchives.org PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 3 16:15:47 EDT 2005


Date: Sat, 3 Oct 1998 10:58:41 EDT

Statement of Sundiata Acoli to Demonstrations Against House Resolution 254

Greetings! Thank you all for coming to the Nation's capitol to demonstrate 
your opposition to, anger and disgust at Res. 254 called for the 
extradition of Assata Shakur from Cuba. The resolution states "Assata and 
the driver [i.e. me] opened fire with automatic pistols, striking Trooper 
Werner Foerster twice in the chest and Trooper James Harper in the left 
shoulder...then turned Trooper Foerster's own weapon on him firing an 
additional two bullets into his head execution style..."

Those are very emotional words, but to any humane person all such deaths 
are tragic. Zayd Shakur the other passenger and our companion also died 
from trooper gunfire during the same incident. His death is equally tragic 
but these tragedies are compounded by Gov. Whitman's attempt to use Assata 
and the trooper's death to whip up hysterics solely to revive her faded-out 
political career. And its particularly tragic that many Congressional Black 
Caucus (CBC) members meekly went along with Whitman's charade. Some didn't 
and I commend all those who did not.

Those CBC members who did vote for the resolution acted as though they have 
forgotten the real history of African people in this country or the real 
way African motorists and other people of color are treated on the New 
Jersey Turnpike even today. It was worst in 1973 when Assata, Zayd and I 
were stopped there.

In the same manner, New Jersey State Troopers recently opened fire without 
provocation, on three basketball try-out students, two Blacks and one 
Puerto Ricans, in a van: Trooper Harper opened fire on Assata sitting in 
the car with her hands in the air. Trooper Foerster opened fire on me and 
shot me in the hand as I struggled to prevent him from killing me. It does 
not take a rocket scientists to figure that since he fired one bullet into 
my hand, and his weapon which was recovered at the scene was found to have 
been fired only twice, that it's mathematically impossible for two bullets 
from his own weapon to be found in his head. They did find two bullets in 
his head, though, and both were revolver bullets. The only two revolvers on 
the scene belong to Troopers Foerster and Harper. The other three weapons 
recovered at the scene and attributed to me and my passengers were each 
semi-automatic pistols.

The continuing tragedy is the twenty five years of lies, hysterical and 
cover-up to hide what really happened on the turnpike in May 1973. But 
truth crushed to earth will rise again. Assata, Zayd and I were only three 
of many Black Panther Party (BPP) members and other political activists of 
the 1960s, 1970s and beyond who were targeted by COINTELPRO, then branded 
as criminals so that we could be hunted down, shot and killed like animals; 
or if we survived, imprisoned for life. But that is a price many of us 
willing paid during that era to struggle for our people's freedom. Its 
because of the struggle and sacrifices of people like Assata that many CBC 
members and other middle-class blacks are where they are today.

Instead of voting for a resolution demanding Assata's extradition, the CBC 
should be sponsoring a resolution demanding that the charges against Assata 
be dropped and calling for a congressional investigation, not only into the 
1973 turnpike incident, but also into an investigation of COINTELPRO's 
dirty hands in setting up so many political activists of that era: many who 
are still in prison today and must be freed if we ever to bring a 
principled closure to the 1960s. Anything less is a sell-out.

And last, Assata has given and gives so much to us. It was recently brought 
to my attention how little we give back to Assata. So I want your 
participation in an upcoming national fundraiser to give something back to 
Assata. The details of this fundraiser will be provided you. The gist of it 
involves a national fundraiser to provide Assata's daughter and her family 
with funds to travel frequently to see Assata and to maintain frequent 
telephone contact with her when away. I know its a gift that's dear to her 
heart and I urge you to give the max so that Assata can see/talk with her 
children and her grandchild as often as possible. It will make her very happy.

I thank you.

Hands Off Assata!

Free Mumia and All Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War!

Sundiata Acoli

Michael Ratner
CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
666 BROADWAY
New York, N.Y. 10012
(212) 614-6430
(212) 614-6499 (fax)

Re: Assata Shakur (Joanne Chesimard)

Dear Members of the House of Representatives:

On September 14, 1998 the House of Representatives passed H. Con. Res. 254, 
calling on the government of Cuba to extradite Assata Shakur (Joanne 
Chesimard). That resolution was not only incredibly hypocritical, but
illegal and unwarranted as well. As I will explain in this letter there is 
no basis for that resolution.

First,  even apart from Assata Shakur's  innocence and the unfairness of 
her trial,  it is politically hypocritical for the United States to insist 
on her extradition. If there is a place where terrorists can call home, it 
is the Untied States. It gives refuge to criminals who have attacked and 
murdered scores if not hundreds of Cubans. Most notorious of these is 
Orlando Bosch, living in Miami, who was convicted of blowing up a Cubana 
airliner killing 76 people, including a young Cuban fencing team.  And what 
of the agents of the CIA who planned and paid for numerous sabotage and 
terrorist attacks in Cuba.

But the U.S. is not only a home for Cuban terrorists. Living among us is 
Emmanuel Constant, the former head of the Haitian paramilitary organization 
FRAPH; its members tortured and murdered hundreds in the aftermath of the 
1991 coup in Haiti. During the coup Constant was on the CIA payroll.  After 
the coup the U.S. labeled FRAPH "terrorist"  and Secretary of State Warren 
Christopher said his presence here  "would seriously undermine U.S. foreign 
policy interests... and cast doubt upon the seriousness of our resolve to 
combat human rights violations. He said Constant "was instrumental in 
sustaining the repression that prevailed in Haiti...."  Yet the State 
Department refused a Haitian extradition request and stopped his 
deportation back to Haiti. Constant walks the streets of New York 
intimidating and frightening Haitians.

And what of  the Salvadoran General Jose Guillermo Garcia and the head of 
El Salvador's national guard, Vides Cassanonva, who according to the United 
Nations covered up and protected the murderers of the three nuns and lay 
worker in El Salvador. They obtained political asylum and are living well 
in Palm Coast, Florida. The U.S. has laid out a welcome mat for other 
terrorists including General Hector Gramajo, accused of killing as many as 
10,000 Guatemalan Indians, General Prosper Avril, a former dictator of 
Haiti and responsible for the torture of opposition leaders and Sintong 
Panjaitan, an Indonesian general, responsible for the 1991 Santa Cruz 
massacre in East Timor that killed hundreds.

But, these are only a few terrorists who the U.S. has welcomed; scores more 
are probably unknown to the public, hidden in the U.S. after carrying out 
its bidding overseas. Second,  under the extradition treaty with Cuba, it 
has the absolute and unfettered right not to extradite Assasta Shakur. 
Assuming the treaty is still valid, it contains a clear exception to 
extradition for crimes that are of a "political character."  Article VI of 
the treaty states:

A fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if the offense in respect of 
which his surrender is demanded be of a political character, or if it is 
proved that the requisition for his surrender has, in fact, been made with 
a view to try or punish him for an offense of a political character. 
Interestingly, after the revolution it was the United States that first 
invoked this "political offense" exception to shield two escaped murderers 
who had been convicted of killing a prominent member of the Cuban Communist 
Party. Ramos v. Diaz, 179 F. Supp. 458 (1959).   Cuba has made the decision 
that Assata Shakur's case fits the "political exception" of the treaty. On 
April 2, Cuba forcefully turned down any request for Assata's extradition. 
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Alejandro Gonzalez, said Assata was 
"a civil rights activist." He stated that she would not be extradited as 
the "government of Cuba has sufficient reasons to disagree with the charges 
against her and fears that she might be the target of unfair treatment." 
This decision by the Cuban government cannot be questioned or overruled by 
the United States. Article VI of the treaty is clear on this: If any 
question shall arise as to whether a case comes within the provisions of 
this article, the decision of the authorities of the government on which 
the demand for the surrender is made, or which may gave granted the 
extradition shall be final.  As the treaty states: the Cuban decision is 
final. The current demand by the House of Representatives flies in the face 
of the treaty and violates U.S. treaty obligations and U.S. law.

Third, I believe, as do many others, that Assata Shakur is innocent. The 
evidence at trial showed that  she was illegally stopped by racist New 
Jersey State police, shot in the back with her hands in the air and  tried
by a jury inflamed by politicians and a press bent on her conviction. The 
New Jersey State Police have a long history of discriminatory and racist 
conduct that unfortunately is still continuing. No matter what position you
take as to Assata Shakur's innocence or guilt, her trial was clearly, like 
that of Sam Shepard's, a miscarriage of justice.

The vote on the resolution represents political  grandstanding of the worst 
sort.  But for the United States and the House of Representatives 
hypocrisy, inconsistency and illegality are a matter of a course when 
dealing with Assata Shakur and Cuba.

Sincerely yours,

Michael Ratner



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