President Donald Trumps demands to Cuba included a call for the extradition of all U.S. convicts who had fled to the island for asylum.
For more than 30 years, Ishmael Muslim Ali has lived a relatively full and unremarkable life in Cuba. He taught English in the nation’s public schools, worked as a translator and raised a family, a quiet coda for an international fugitive.
At least that was the case until last month, when President Donald Trump announced a partial halt to relations with Cuba unless certain conditions were met. Handing over Ali, who resides on the FBI’s most-wanted list for hijacking an American Airlines flight and fleeing to Cuba to escape multiple life sentences for the murder of eight people, is one of those conditions.
Trump’s demands contained the usual requirements for Cuba: free and fair elections, allowing a political opposition and opening up its economy. But they also included a call for the extradition of all American convicts who had fled to the island for asylum. Among them are Assata Shakur, also known as Joanne Chesimard, who is wanted for escaping from prison while serving a life sentence for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper, and an estimated 70 others who have taken refuge in the communist nation.
As to the threat of being sent home, Ali, 69, harbors no concern. The Cuban government has made it clear that the extradition of those granted asylum is off the table — along with the other demands laid out by the president.
Most Read Stories
“They want their sovereignty respected,” Ali said in a telephone interview from Cuba, among his first public comments in three decades. “They are not going to let anybody bully them.”
He said he felt reassured that the Cuban authorities would not let him be sent back. After all, he said, Trump’s stance is a return to the old Cold War animosity that further hardened the Cuban government’s positions.
Beyond that, experts say that if the United States requests the extradition of its wanted criminals, Cuba may do the same. That could include a request for Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban with ties to the CIA who lives in the United States but is wanted in Cuba for, among other things, his possible role in the bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people.
Ali’s case, along with that of his co-defendants, is the subject of a new documentary, “The Skyjacker’s…