Jucontee Thomas Smith Woewiyu
Born in 1946 in Liberia, Jucontee Thomas Smith Woewiyu is a former co-founder and one of the leaders of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
The NPFL was a military organization directed by Charles Taylor which aimed at seizing power and ousting the then president Samuel Doe. On 24 December 1989, the NPFL invaded Liberia. In April 1990, 90% of the country was under control of the NPFL.
Woewiyu was a spokesperson and negotiator of the NPFL. He was also a minister of defence in 1990 under the regime of Charles Taylor. Because of the divergence of opinions on the ideology of the party, he left Taylor’s party in 1994 and created his own political party – the NPFL – CRC (National Patriotic Front of Liberia – Central Revolutionary Council). He returned subsequently back to NPFL and became minister of labour under Taylor between 1997 and 1999.
The NPFL was accused of participating in a number of international crimes, especially those of sexual slavery, exterminations or recruitment of child soldiers. Woewiyu was implicated in planning of attacks against civilians, in particular in 1992 during the operation Octopus. This operation consisted of conquering Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, and resulted in death of thousands of civilians and fighters.
Since January 1972 Woewiyu has legal permanent residence in the United States of America. He applied for the United States citizenship in January 2006.
On 30 January 2014, Woewiyu was placed under investigation for several counts of crimes relating to perjury, fraudulent application for American citizenship, deception of immigration services and delivery of false documents for the purposes of the process naturalisation.
On 12 May 2014, Woewiyu was arrested in Newark Airport upon his return from Liberia.
In October 2014, his bail was paid and Woewiyu was placed under house arrest.
His trial began on 11 June 2018. On 3 July 2018, he was found guilty of immigration fraud, false statements concerning his naturalization and perjury. The decision on his sentence was scheduled for 26 November 2018 but it was postponed. He faces a maximum sentence of 110 years of imprisonment and a fine of four million.
On 12 April 2020, after repeated postponements of his sentencing hearing in 2018 and 2019, Jucontee Thomas Smith Woewiyu died of covid-19 after a week of treatment at the Bryn Mawr Hospital in Philadelphia.
This is the third trial held in the United States in connection with the civil war in Liberia after the trials of George Boley and Mohammed Jabbateh.
Furthermore, the son of Charles Taylor, Chuckie Taylor, an American citizen was the first person judged under the Alien Tort Statute (the American law for civil offences against foreigners) for the crimes committed in Liberia.