National Security

House Dem demands fugitives in Cuba be returned to US

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Forty-four years ago, Rep. Jerry McNerney’s (D-Calif.) airplane was hijacked by three men accused of killing a state trooper who then safely fled to Cuba.

Now, McNerney wants to make sure that the last survivor of that hijacking and all other fugitives who have sought asylum in Cuba are brought back to the U.S., as the two nations renew diplomatic relations.

{mosads}“Currently, the United States has no accurate figure on how many U.S. fugitives have been able to evade its justice system under the shield of Cuban asylum,” McNerney told Secretary of State John Kerry in a letter on Friday. “We must work to ensure that those who have committed crimes are held accountable for their actions.”

In 1971, McNerney, then a 20-year-old student, was one of 150 passengers on a Chicago-bound TWA flight that was hijacked by Charles Hill and two other men.

“I looked behind me, and a couple guys behind me there was a guy with a gun,” McNerney told the Stockton, Calif., Record earlier this year. “I thought ‘Jeez, looks like we’re not going to Chicago.’ “

The men were allegedly fleeing charges stemming from the killing of a New Mexico state trooper, and had the flight rerouted to Cuba so they could seek asylum. McNerney and the other passengers were let off in Tampa, Fla. 

The other two hijackers have died, but Hill continues to live freely in Cuba.

“As a passenger of the hijacked plane, I am deeply saddened that Hill, and numerous other U.S. fugitives, have not been brought to justice,” McNerney wrote in his letter to Kerry.

Earlier this year, Hill told CNN that he is considering returning to face the music in the U.S.

“There are certain things in the United States I would just like to be able to go back and see,” Hill told CNN.

Critics of the Obama administration’s outreach with Cuba say that the island nation’s policy of harboring fugitives like Hill is just one of many reasons why the U.S. should not be re-establishing ties.

The Cuban embassy opened its doors for the first time in five decades this week. Next month, Kerry will travel to Cuba to raise the flag at the U.S. embassy in Havana. 

Tags Charles Hill Cuba Jerry McNerney John Kerry

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