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The FBI has added the former Black Panther Assata Shakur to its Most Wanted Terrorists list 40 years after the killing for which she was convicted. Born Joanne Chesimard, Shakur was found guilty of shooting dead a New Jersey state trooper during a gunfight in 1973. Shakur has long proclaimed her innocence and accused federal authorities of political persecution. She escaped from prison in 1979 and received political asylum in Cuba. On Thursday, she became the first woman added to the FBI’s terrorist list, and the reward for her capture was doubled to $2 million. We begin our coverage by airing Shakur’s reading of an open letter she wrote to Pope John Paul II during his trip to Cuba in 1998 after the FBI asked him to urge her extradition. "As a result of being targeted by [the FBI program] COINTELPRO, I was faced with the threat of prison, underground, exile or death," Shakur said at the time. "I am not the first, nor the last, person to be victimized by the New Jersey system of 'justice.' The New Jersey State Police are infamous for their racism and brutality." Hear Shakur read the letter in full on SoundCloud. Click here to watch our interview about her case with scholar and activist Angela Davis and Lennox Hinds, her longtime attorney.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show looking at the case of Assata Shakur, a legendary figure within the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army. On Thursday, she became the first woman ever to make the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. In addition, the FBI and the state of New Jersey doubled the reward for her capture to $2 million.
Shakur was convicted in the May 2nd, 1973, killing of a New Jersey state trooper during a shootout that left one of her fellow activists dead. She was shot twice by police during the incident. In 1979, she managed to escape from jail, and she later fled to Cuba where she received political asylum. She has long proclaimed her innocence.
On Thursday, FBI Special Agent Aaron Ford spoke at a press conference announcing Shakur’s placement on the Most Wanted Terrorists list. He refers to Shakur as Joanne Chesimard, her original name.
AARON FORD: Openly and freely in Cuba, she continues to maintain and promote her terrorist ideology. She provides anti-U.S. government speeches espousing the Black Liberation Army message of revolution and terrorism. No person, no matter what his or her political or moral convictions are, is above the law. Joanne Chesimard is a domestic terrorist who murdered a law enforcement officer, execution-style.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s FBI Special Agent Aaron Ford. In a moment, we’ll be joined by two guests: the scholar and activist Angela Davis, who faced her own murder trial decades ago, and Lennox Hinds, Assata Shakur’s longtime attorney for some 40 years. But first we turn to Assata Shakur in her own words. In 1998, Democracy Now! aired her reading an open letter to Pope John Paul II during his trip to Cuba. She wrote the message after New Jersey state troopers sent the pope a letter asking him to call for her extradition.
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