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Testimony of Assata Shakur before the United Nations
From Covert Action Quarterly
26 October 1998

CAQ Editor's note: This article contains portions of the text of several letters and interviews by Assata Shakur and comments by two noted attorneys, Lennox Hinds and Michael Ratner. The text that follows in (...) is by Rosemari Mealy, who has excerpted Assata's writings for Covert Action.

One person who was able to escape horrendous persecution, after being convicted in 1977 by an all-white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison, was Assata Shakur (formerly known as JoAnne Chesimard. In her written statement to the 54th Session of the United Nation's Commission on Human Rights, held in Geneva Switzer- land, in March 1998, Assata Shakur testified [as follows]:

The US Senate's 1976 Church Committee report on intelligence operations inside the USA revealed that, "The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the public's perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through 'friendly' news contacts."

In 1978 my case was one of many cases brought before the United Nations..,exposing the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treat- ment they receive in US prisons... (see ... Shakur Petition).

I was falsely accused in six different "criminal cases," and in all six of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts; that was certainly not the case. It only meant that the "evidence" presented against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident. This political persecution was part and parcel of the government's policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges. ...

On May 2, 1973, I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli, were stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a "faulty tail light".. Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were stopped. Zayd and I remained in th car. State Trooper Harper then came to the car, opened the door,and began to question us.

Because we were black, and riding in a car with Vermont licence plates, he claimed he became "suspicious". He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told us to put our hands up in the air in front of us, where he could see them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back. Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, Trooper Werner Foerster was killed. I was left on the ground to die and when I did not, I was taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten, and tortured...

Even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Trooper Foerster. Never in my life have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life trying to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the gun that killed trooper Foerster was found under Zayd's leg, Sundiata Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths. Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial. We were both convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis...

Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that dominate US government's policy towards people of color, and in 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life.

(The greatest fear that Assata had to endure during the early years of her incarceration was for the safety of her daughter, Kakuya who was born while Assata was confined to a hospital ward. After the daring escape from a maximum security unit at New Jersey's Clinton Correctional facilities, Assata lived and struggled underground for many years. She was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list and hunted by federal officials during this period.

There was great relief among the progressive community when it became known that Assata had been liberated from prison on Black Solidarity Day, Nov 2 1979. Bright yellow posters with Assata's photo were anonymously printed, and appeared on signposts throughout Harlem with the message, "Assata Is Welcome Here". But at the same time, Black women throughout the United States were summarily detained by the police under the pretext that they resembled the so-called fugitive. Homes of Black activists in New York and other cities were raided by heavily armed SWAT teams, where police informants had directed them to what they falsely believed to be safe houses harboring this dangerous "cop killer".

Assata's family was also harrassed. Her aunt and attorney, Evelyn Williams, was jailed for criminal contempt for vigorously defending her client. Ms Williams,in her book, "Inadmissible Evidence -Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1993- provides in detail a frightening saga of American Jurisprudence. Before she passed in 1995, Assata's mother, Doris, bore the emotional scars induced by mental torture. Imagine your phone ringing constantly in the middle of the night with a sadistic caller telling you that your daughter is dead!

If the psychological warfare that was waged against her immediate family by the US police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the years took place in any other country, it would be deemed a human rights violation. In her own autobiography, Assata -Chicago Lawrence Hill, 1987, she chronicles her experiences, and describes herself as a "20th Century Escaped Slave."

In [the] late 1980's, Assata Shakur publicly emerged in Cuba where she was accorded the status of political refugee.

Throughout the years, the New Jersey police have been particularly vindictive, vowing to capture Assata Shakur dead or alive. On Dec 24 1979, the NJ State Police called a press conference to announce that they had written a letter to Pope John Paul II -who was about to embark on a trip to Cuba -asking him to intervene on their behalf to have Assata extradited to New Jersey (NJ).

Assata sent an open letter to the Pope, which received widespread international dissemination. It was published in Arabic, French Spanish and several other languages. In the United States, the letter went virtually unnoticed by the mainstream press, but was given front page coverage by New York's only Black Daily, -- the Daily Challenge.)

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