Tom Woewiyu, the former spokesman for the erstwhile National Patriotic Front of Liberia, the political party of Doe’s successor, Charles Taylor — is scheduled to face trial in Philadelphia for alleged lies he told on U.S. immigration forms.
The judge denied pushing back the trial further into the fall, an extension both the government and defense counsels had requested.
“I find that June is a sufficient time for counsels to begin this trial. Therefore, I’ll set June 11 to begin the trial,” ordered Judge Anita Brody.
Woewiyu was present in court, suited in dark pants and jacket.
He told our reporter outside the courtroom that he was upbeat this time around because “the time you saw me I was in handcuffs and jumpsuit.”
Attorney L. C. Wright is the lead government prosecutor on the case, as he was on the Jabateh trial.
He told this reporter outside of the courtroom that his team of lawyers will continue to work towards June 11th.
“Everything is possible as far as what we do to prepare for the trial,” said Atty Wright in response to whether his team would be seeking more material and other witnesses from Liberia.
He called the case “involved and complex” because of “the age of the case and evidence are some 30 years old.”
Tom Woewiyu walked out of the courtroom alongside his lead counsel who said he was hopeful.
“Hopeful is a better word,” said Mark Wilson, a senior trial counsel and community defender, who took on Woewiyu’s case last September.
Last year, the same judge in Philadelphia granted a bail request for Woewiyu, who is accused of lying on a 2006 application for U.S. citizenship.
Woewiyu was instructed to post US$100,000 bond, which was secured by his house in Collingdale and another house owned by one of his children.
He was also ordered to be confined to his home.
Tom Woewiyu is charged with perjury and fraudulently trying to gain citizenship and false statements
He was charged with seven counts of perjury, two counts of trying to fraudulently obtain US citizenship, and multiple counts of fraud, and making false statements.
The indictment states, that Woewiyu presided over the NPFL as Minister of Defense in 1992 when the terror group, “tortured perceived enemies and civilians, girls raped and forced them into sex slavery, children were conscripted into the army, and humanitarian aid workers were murdered.”
According to the indictment, Woewiyu, who applied for US citizenship in 2006, did not disclose his war past or his affiliation the violent Charles Taylor’s NPFL.
“When he signed a sworn statement during the process, he lied that he did not advocate the overthrow of a government by force or violently, and he did not persecute any person because of race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” the indictment charged.
News of Woewiyu’s arrest by US authorities sent shockwaves in Liberian communities across the US.
Recently a U.S. jury has convicted ex-Liberian warlord Mohammed Jabateh also known as Gen. Jungle Jabbah on all four federal immigration fraud and perjury charges finding he lied when he claimed on asylum applications that he had not committed war crimes.
The jury reached its unanimous decision after about 5 hours deliberation.
Jabateh was returned to jail to await sentencing which could happen months from now. He faces up to 33 years in prison.
Jabateh will be sentenced in April.
The historic case marked the first time that Liberian war victims were able to testify against a perpetrator for crimes committed during the bloody Liberian civil war in a public trial inside or outside of Liberia.
Until the Jungle Jabbah conviction on Wednesday, no Liberian had been held accountable for war crimes committed in the Liberian civil war that killed more 250, 000 people.