To: US Congress & US President

In Solidarity With Cuba; In Solidarity With Assata: An Open Letter to
the Black and Progressive Communities

Sisters, Brothers, Comrades:

The United States and New Jersey recently placed Assata Shakur on the
FBI’s wanted lists of “terrorists,” and also placed a $1 million dollar
bounty on her head. Both of these actions pose serious threats to
Assata’s life. These actions are also equally dangerous to the Republic
of Cuba, because they are an escalation of the United States’
destabilization campaign, providing a pretext for military aggression.
For more than four decades, the United States has worked to overthrow
the Republic of Cuba, attempting on more than two dozen occasions to
assassinate its president, His Excellency Fidel Castro.

*Who Is Assata Shakur?*

Assata Shakur is a mother, grandmother, and activist who follow in the
footsteps of Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and all of
those sisters and brothers who risked their lives so that Black people
may one day be free. Assata is not a terrorist; she is a victim of the
American government’s internal terror campaign, directed against the
Black Liberation Movement. Popularly known as COINTELPRO
(counterintelligence program), this onslaught against Black people in
America resulted in the assassination of, unlawful imprisonment of, and
exile of hundreds of Black activists during the late 1960s and early
1970s. Among the casualties and victims were Reverend Martin Luther
King, Jr. and Fred Hampton, who were both murdered with the complicity
of the government; and Geromino Pratt and Dhoruba bin Wihad, who spent
years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

As part of the FBI’s campaign against the Black Panther Party, Assata
was labeled the “Queen of the Black Liberation Army,” and falsely
accused of bank robberies and other crimes up and down in the East Coast
in the early 1970s. Fleeing from these false allegations, she was
captured while traveling the New Jersey Turnpike on May 2, 1973 with two
other members of the Black Panther Party--Zayd Shakur and Sundiata
Acoli--after their car was stopped for an alleged faulty taillight. A
shoot-out erupted that resulted in deaths of Zayd and a state trooper,
Werner Forster.

Following her arrest, New Jersey State Troopers delighted in torturing
Assata and, after his arrest, Sundiata, as well. While shackled and
chained to a bed, arms paralyzed, and bullet wounds in her chest, Assata
was beaten with shotgun butts by New Jersey State Troopers shouting Nazi
slogans and threats to kill her. In the history of New Jersey, no woman
pretrial detainee has ever been treated as she was, continuously
confined to a men’s prison, under twenty-four surveillance of her most
intimate activities, without intellectual sustenance, adequate medical
attention, or exercise, and without the company of other women for all
the years she was in their custody.

Following detentions and trials riddled with egregious human rights
violations and constitutional errors (/e.g./, massive negative publicity
and exclusion of African people from the jury), Assata and Sundiata were
both found guilty, in separate trials, of the murder of Trooper Weiner
and sentenced to life in prison. Prior to her New Jersey trial, Assata
was tried six times on the various flimsy, false charges for which she
was being sought. Each time she was acquitted.

In 1979, in one of the boldest and most righteous actions in the history
of the 20^th century Black Liberation Movement, Assata was liberated
from a New Jersey jail. In 1986, she was granted asylum by the
government of Cuba, where she has continued to speak out for the right
of African people in the United States to freedom and self-determination.

Thirty-two years later, Sundiata, now sixty-eight years old, remains in
prison and, despite a near stellar prison record, has twice been denied
parole because of his continuing commitment to speaking out for the
freedom of Black people, and against the vindictiveness of the law
enforcement agencies in New Jersey.

*United States and New Jersey Actions Violate International Law*

* *

The United States and New Jersey actions represent a historically
unprecedented attack on the sovereignty of a nation and its right to
grant political asylum to those it believes are deserving of it.

Several international instruments address the question of political
asylum and political refugees. The two most comprehensive of these
instruments are the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of
Refugees, adopted in Geneva in 1951; and the Protocol Relating to the
Status of Refugees, adopted in New York in 1967.

The Protocol is an independent international treaty detailing the
minimum humanitarian standards for the treatment of refugees. The fact
that the majority of UN member countries, including the United States,
are parties to both the Convention and the Protocol shows how universal
these two treaties are.

The Convention defines refugees as people who are outside their country
of origin (or their habitual residence, in the case of stateless people)
and who, due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for race,
religion, nationality, a group membership or political opinion, cannot
or will not avail themselves of the protection to which they are
entitled. The Convention also details the rights and obligations of
refugees, including those refugees/ should not be expelled or returned
to territory where their life or freedom would be threatened/.
Furthermore, it prohibits discrimination against refugees on the basis
of race, religion, or country of origin. In short, the United States and
New Jersey’s actions make a mockery of international law and norms.

The hypocrisy of the United States is also clear. The United States has
a long history of providing asylum to individuals considered “criminals”
by other governments, most notably those considered “criminals” by the
Cuban government. The United States, for example, provided asylum to the
veterans of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs (the United States-endorsed
invasion of Cuba). The first Bush administration overruled a United
States deportation order on Orlando Bosch, one of the most notorious,
and granted him asylum. The Justice Department had described Bosch as “a
terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and
inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.”

More recently, Luis Posada Carriles, another long-time violent
anti-Cuban government activist, illegally entered the United States.
Posada is a prime suspect in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban commercial
airliner, which crashed over the Island of Barbados that killed 73
people. He has also admitted to plotting attacks that damaged tourist
spots in Havana and killed an Italian visitor there in 1997.
Additionally, Posada was convicted in Panama in a 2000 bomb plot against
President Castro. The United States has arrested Posada and reportedly
is considering whether or not to deport him, but not to Venezuela that
is seeking his extraction for trial on charges stemming from the Cuban
airline bombing. Posada lawyer has argued that Posada was granted legal
residency in the United States while working with the United States and
the CIA against President Castro. Unlike Assata, Bosch and Posada are
true “terrorists” because they have complete lack of regard for the
lives of innocent civilians.

We are forever indebted to the Cuban people for their solidarity and
friendship to African people, in Africa and throughout the Diaspora and
for providing sanctuary to our beloved Sister from the racist United
States criminal injustice system. When Africa called, Cuba answered!
Cuba’s military assistance to the people of Angola was critical to the
successful overthrow of the racist apartheid regime of South Africa. We
urge you to join with us in solidarity with the Cuban people and in
solidarity with Assata.

What You Can Do:

1. Sign and circulate this letter.
2. Write letters to the President, your United States Senator and
Congressperson and Acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey
expressing your support for Assata and urging them respect the
Cuban government’s sovereignty and stop their attacks on Assata.
3. Hold a local rally or other event in solidarity with Cuba and Assata.
4. Work to free Sundiata Acoli and all political prisoners and
prisoners of war.



Joan P. Gibbs, Esq.
Rosemarie Mealy, J.D.


The Undersigned