POLITICS

Christie says Obama should demand that Cuba hand over cop killer Joanne Chesimard

President Barack Obama talks with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after speaking to troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. Christie is joined by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., right and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., second from right.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama talks with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after speaking to troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. Christie is joined by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., right and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., second from right. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie disagrees with President Obama's decision to normalize relations with Cuba and wants the president to demand the immediate return of a convicted cop killer from the country "before any further consideration of restoration of diplomatic relations with the Cuban government."

In a letter sent to the White House Friday and made public by his office Sunday, Christie pressed for the return of Joanne Chesimard, who was convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973 during a gunbattle after being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Chesimard was found guilty but escaped from prison and eventually fled to Cuba, where she was granted asylum by Fidel Castro. She is now living as Assata Shakur and is the first woman placed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist List.

Christie said Cuba's decision to grant Chesimard asylum "is an affront to every resident of our state, our country, and in particular, the men and women of the New Jersey State Police, who have tirelessly tried to bring this killer back to justice."

Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House's National Security Council, said it will "continue to press in our engagement with the Cuban government for the return of U.S. fugitives in Cuba to pursue justice for the victims of their crimes."

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Christie expressed "profound disagreement" with the president's decision, but he said the moment marked an opportunity for Cuba to prove it's serious about change.

"I do not share your view that restoring diplomatic relations without a clear commitment from the Cuban government of the steps they will take to reverse decades of human rights violations will result in a better and more just Cuba for its people," Christie wrote. "However, despite my profound disagreement with this decision, I believe there is an opportunity for Cuba and its government to show the American people it is serious about change."

Christie has generally been reluctant to weigh in on contentious foreign policy issues as he mulls a run for president in 2016.

Other potential Republican candidates, most notably Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have been publicly disputing one another's opposing stances.

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