New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is hoping to stop all flights leaving from Newark, New Jersey, to Havana, Cuba, until Assata Shakur — an activist and former member of the Black Panther Party — is returned to the United States.
Shakur, formerly known as JoAnne Chesimard, is convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Shakur was convicted of several crimes and spent time in and out of prison throughout the 1970s. In 1979, Shakur escaped prison and fled to Cuba in 1984 where she lived as a fugitive and eventually received political asylum.
On Tuesday, Christie sent a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman John Degnan. He strongly urged that Degnan use his authority to prohibit any flights leaving out of Newark Liberty International Airport from flying to Cuba, until Shakur is extradited.
United Airlines recently put in requests for their planes to travel from Newark to Cuba as the U.S. loosens travel restrictions. Despite Christie’s request, Rahsaan Johnson, a spokesman for United said, “we remain very interested in serving Cuba as soon as we are able to do so, and believe United’s service would benefit the airport and the region.”
Christie has been vocal about his dismay with President Obama’s administration for removing Cuba from the U.S. terrorist backlist. Christie previously referred to President Obama’s decision to open a Cuban Embassy as “dead wrong.”
In his letter to Degman, Christie explains that he feels permitting flights into Cuba from New Jersey would be, “rewarding the Cuban government for continuing to harbor a fugitive.”