Around the World

Fugitive in Cuba: Joanne Chesimard, First Woman on FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List

For the first time, a woman has been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list: Joanne Chesimard. The FBI and the state of New Jersey are now offering $2 million for information leading to her capture.

Chesimard was already wanted for several felonies, including bank robbery, when she was accused of killing New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster execution-style 40 years ago this month. She was convicted in 1977 and served prison time but escaped in 1979 by using a prison van in a dramatic jailbreak. By 1984, she surfaced in Cuba and was granted asylum by Fidel Castro. She remains there to this day.

To her supporters, Joanne Chesimard is Assata Shakur, unfairly targeted and convicted by the United States government. She has also become something of a cultural hero. Not only is she the step-aunt and godmother of rapper Tupac Shakur, but she has written an autobiography and was featured in a documentary while in Cuba. Hip-hop and rap artists have sung about her cause, including “A Song for Assata” by the rapper Common.

“It’s unfortunate that someone involved in the murder of an officer, kidnappings, hostage takings and robberies in a 14-year span is revered by a segment of society,” said Aaron Ford, the special agent in charge at the FBI’s Newark division, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour.

“For us, justice never sleeps, justice never rests,” Ford continued. “We’re looking to bring her to justice because she committed a heinous act. She is a member of an organization which espoused hate against the U.S. government.”

The FBI describes Chesimard as a revolutionary extremist and a member of the Black Liberation Army, a left-wing militant group. Though Cuba has sometimes cooperated with the U.S. in criminal matters and agreed to extradition, Chesimard’s residence there for the last three decades has apparently been protected.

“We absolutely still consider her a threat,” said Ford. “She is a menace to society still. She has connections and associations from members of that party she belonged to years ago. They are still espousing anti-government views.”

Not only is Chesimard the only female on the terrorist list, she is only the second domestic terrorist to be added. The others are alleged members of overseas Islamic terrorist organizations.

Though the FBI has named her a terrorist, that designation is not without controversy.

“We have to look at it in the context of what just happened in Boston,” said Lennox Hinds, Chesimard’s long-time attorney, in a May 3 interview on “Democracy Now.” “I think that with the massacre that occurred there, the FBI and the state police are attempting to inflame the public opinion to characterize her as a terrorist. Because the acts that she was convicted of have nothing to do with terrorism.”

But Ford disagreed: “Any time an individual or group uses force or violence to intimidate, coerce or change the mission of a government, that is terrorism and in this case, it’s domestic terrorism.”

Loading...
  • Tennis-Sisterly advice to help Serena prepare for Keys

    * Serena slams Cibulkova in straight sets * To meet Keys in all-American semi-final (Writes through with quotes, adds byline) By Ian Ransom MELBOURNE, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Serena Williams will turn to her sister for advice for her all-American semi-final against Madison Keys, the teenager with designs on the throne of U.S. women's tennis. An injury-hampered Keys defeated Venus Williams in three sets on Wednesday to continue her fairytale run at Melbourne Park and now faces the ultimate test against top seed Serena. Williams has previously suffered defeat at the hands of a U.S. prodigy at Melbourne Park, beaten by teenager Sloane Stephens in the 2013 tournament, but has never been thrown off the top of the heap by year's end. Into her first semi-final at Melbourne Park in five years after Wednesday's 6-2 6-2 rout of Dominika Cibulkova, Williams will be on her guard against Keys, long touted as the future standard-bearer for the women's game in America.

  • Tennis-Keys injury time-out cost me momentum, says beaten Venus

    By Ian Ransom MELBOURNE, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Venus Williams blamed an injury time-out by opponent Madison Keys for robbing her of rhythm and momentum during their Australian Open quarter-final on Wednesday. The seven-times grand slam champion was leading 4-1 in the second set when play was halted for about eight minutes to allow 19-year-old Keys to have treatment on her left thigh.

Loading...