News / Africa

Charles Taylor’s Former Defense Minister Arrested in US

Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu of LiberiaJucontee Thomas Woewiyu of Liberia
Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu of Liberia
Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu of Liberia
James Butty
The immigration lawyer for the Defense Minister in Charles Taylor’s former rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) during that country’s brutal civil war says his client will be exonerated of the charge of lying on his application for U.S. citizenship.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents Monday arrested Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu at Newark Airport on his return from Liberia and charged him with lying by failing to disclose his alleged affiliation with a “violent political group in Liberia”.

But attorney Raymond Basso says Woewiyu later in 2009, at the request of U.S. immigration, submitted information clarifying his involvement with the NPFL.

The indictment said that as NPFL defense minister during Liberia’s civil war, Woewiyu presided over a brutal military campaign during which perceived adversaries were tortured, civilians were executed, girls and women were raped and forced into sex slavery.

But in his application for U.S. citizenship, according to the indictment, Woewiyu said he had never advocated for the overthrow of any government by force or violence and that he had never persecuted any person.

Basso says contrary to reports, Woewiyu is not being charged as a war criminal.
“They are not charging him as a war criminal; you see that’s the misconception that I’ve been reading. Basically, they’re saying that the U.S. is holding him out to be a war criminal, which in a sense is true. They are holding him to be that way, but they’re only charging him with lying on an application,” Basso said.
Basso said he’s confident Woewiyu will be acquitted.
“What do I think is going to happen? I think he’s going to be exonerated simply because, whether or not he made a misrepresentation or omitted something on his original application, when I got involved in the case and the government asked us for information, we responded in writing and laid out all his participation and role in the Taylor regime,” he said.
Basso said U.S. immigration officials in 2010 turned down Woewiyu’s corrected application.
Woewiyu, who has been living in the United States, returned to Liberia recently and local reports said he was contemplating running for a senatorial seat for Grand Bassa County during this year’s Liberia midterm elections.
Local reports also said Woewiyu has been critical of the way in which President Ellen Johnson’s government has been handling the discovering of oil near Grand Bassa, Woewiyu’s home county.
Basso would not speculate whether political considerations were behind Mr. Woewiyu’s arrest, but he questioned the timing.
“I don’t know the motivation for charging him now. The government has had this information since 2009. They denied it (his application) in 2010. Actually, he filled out the application in 2006.  Why are they waiting eight years to charge him? I don’t know their motivation,” Basso said.
He said Woewiyu is expected to appear before a federal magistrate on Thursday to determine bond.
If found guilty, Woewiyu faces up to 110 years in prison and up to $4 million in fines for lying on his application, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

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Comment Sorting
by: James Johnson from: Maryland, USA
May 17, 2014 3:26 PM
What is Tom charge for and why now? I want to believed Tom was one of those opposed, If he is charge, than the US will have to check a lots of documents, including the current president. And let all of them face the US justice system.

by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
May 15, 2014 5:21 AM
Mr. Tom Woewiyu was one of those that cause atrocity in Liberia, and He also help to destabilized the Country, and some other region. Mr. Woewiyu help to killed the Liberian people. He should face criminal charges, and he should be brought to justice for the atrocity he cause. He cannot denied that, cause BBC/VOA has his records. He was NPFL spokesman at that time. and later on he became Defense Minister for the Taylor administration. If you were a little Child in Liberia at that time, you will know Mr. Woewiyu, cause he loves the radio. If Woewiyu likes he can denied all he wants, we have the records to proved to him.
We are also calling on the Obama administration to help the Liberian people in this matter. Mr. Woewiyu needs to go to ICC to face charges for his crimes he committed during the Liberian civil war. He is a criminal. he is a terrorist, he is a tyrant like his Father Charles Taylor and He needs to be lock up like Mr. Taylor. So we are calling on the Obama administration to do more in this case. Enough is enough.
In Response

by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
May 18, 2014 12:49 AM
Leroy@ James Johnson, The fact of the matter, those people destroyed our beautiful country, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I strongly believed Madam Sirleaf should have been in the hague facing criminal charges. As we can record in 1990 september, Madam Sirleaf told BBC focus on Africa, they should level the mansion if President Doe doesn't leave. All those people had an interior motive, All those people that cause the suffering of the Liberian people and brought shamed to our land should lock up behind bar. If they had problem with President Doe, what they should have done, go to the election with the IC and the US monitoring the election. But to killed all the Liberian people as they did, No. these people should held accountable for their actions. They have pushed Liberia back into the stone age. Liberia is one of the biggest village in Africa. buck of the people are living beneath poverty level in Liberia. where by, during the Doe administration, you couldn't tell the poor from the rich. What are the changes they brought to Liberia? I tell, they brought Liberia down and scrape her out of her glory. They disgraced our country. They never had love for that country. there is no way you will love Liberia and destroy it like the way they did. and those are people who were living in the modern world. please. God Bless Liberia, and the lone star will fly high again in Jesus name.
In Response

by: James Johnson from: Maryland USA
May 17, 2014 3:56 PM
Woewiyu is not charged for problem of the Liberian destabilization, if I understood the charge well, it is for false information on some application that he filled some years a go. What I advised now is that the Obama administration need to check all Liberian Gov. Officers records as they re-enter the US this include even the current president. I some how agreed with you, But let the charge be defined. We are looking for who carried Taylor to Liberia.

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