A federal jury in Philadelphia has brought down a guilty verdict in the U.S. government trial of former rebel spokesman and defense Minister of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu. He was convicted on Tuesday of 11 counts of immigration fraud, making false statements and perjury.
The guilty verdict marked the end of another attempt to hold former war actors and human rights violators in Liberia accountable for their actions during the country’s horrendous civil way. Another notorious war actor Mohammed Jabbateh who went by the nom-de guerre “Jungle Jabbah” was convicted at a trial in April in Philadelphia and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.
NPFL leader and former Liberian President Charles Taylor was prosecuted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone and found guilty and sentenced in 2012 to 50 years in prison. Today, he sits in a jail in the UK serving his sentence.
His ex-wife Agnes was picked up by British authorities in June, 2017 and accused of committing the offences between 1989 and 1991. She has denied all the charges. Her trial is set for October.
Woewiyu, a close associate of former Liberia President Charles Taylor was a founding member of the NPFL rebel outfit that attacked the West African nation in December, 1989 in an attempt to dislodge former President Samuel K. Doe. The rebel group waged a merciless campaign of death, destruction, looting and displacement of nearly a million people internally and externally.
The former rebel official had resided in the U.S. since 1972 but traveled back and forth to Liberia as the NPFL waged its murderous campaign. He attempted to apply for U.S. citizen in 2006 but was denied based on information obtained by U.S. authorities that he was a member of the NPFL; information which he did not initially disclose on his citizenship application.
The 12 person jury deliberated fro about 8 hours before arriving at their guilty verdict. He was found not guilty of 5 of the 16 counts in the indictment. Woewiyu who will be sentenced on October 15th is facing significant jail time which in effect may amount to a life sentence. He is 73 years old.
Pressure is mounting on the new administration in Liberia to bring to trial, those named in the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as bearing the greatest responsibility for alleged human rights and economic crimes in the country. The seven month Weah Administration has signaled that prosecution of alleged war criminals is not a priority.
International investigators say they will not relent in pursuing warlords across the globe and where ever they are found. According to a source, a major target is a former warlord and now a Senator in the Liberia government Mr. Prince Y. Johnson who is responsible for the capture, torture, death and mutilation of former President Samuel K. Doe in September, 1990. Johnson is alleged to have summarily executed hundreds of innocent civilians in areas under his control during the war.
An estimated 250,000 persons died in the Liberia war.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine