Liberian national, Mohammed Jabbateh owns a business in Southwest Philadelphia, PA (USA), shipping containers for export to Liberia.
During the first civil war in Liberia (1989-1996), Jabbateh, a.k.a. “Jungle Jabbah”, was allegedly a member of the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO), a rebel faction composed of ethnic Mandingo and Krahn forces. ULIMO was one of the rebel parties fighting against Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL).
After ULIMO in 1994 split up in two groups, the Krahn-dominated ULIMO-J and the Mandingo-dominated ULIMO-K, Jabbateh became a high commander in the ranks of the latter. In his capacity, Jabbateh has been alleged of having either personally committed or otherwise ordered, facilitated and encouraged among the troops under his control the following non-exclusive list of crimes: murder of civilians non-combatants; sexual enslavement and public raping of women; maiming of civilians non-combatants; torturing and enslavement of civilians; conscription of child soldiers; execution of prisoners of war; desecration and mutilation of corpses; killing of persons because of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion.
On 7 December 1998, “Jungle Jabbah”, applied for asylum in the USA. In his application Jabbateh recognized that he belonged to a guerrilla organization. Nevertheless, in his personal statement Jabbateh reportedly did not mention his role in ULIMO nor in ULIMO-K as a commander or higher ranking officer. On the contrary, Jabbateh allegedly stated that during the whole period of the first Liberian civil war he had been working as a bodyguard with the Special Security Services (SSS), a security force within the government of Liberia dedicated to the protection of the president, at the executive mansion in Monrovia.
On 23 December 1999, Jabbateh was eventually granted asylum seeker status in the US. On 5 November 2002, Jabbateh applied for legal permanent residency in U.S. immigration authorities.
Mohammed Jabbateh was arrested on 13 April 2016 following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) heard the case on 18 April 2016 and ordered his release under house arrest.
The trial officially began on 2 October 2017. Mohammed Jabbateh pleaded not guilty.
Mohammed Jabbateh was charged with two counts of fraud in immigration documents and two counts of perjury. The two counts of fraud related to the answers Jabbateh provided to the immigration services relating to his alleged involvement in genocide.
During the 9 hearings of the trial, the jury heard 23 witnesses. They reported about rapes and torture, killings and looting, pillaging and acts of ritual cannibalism committed personally or ordered, facilitated and/or encouraged by Mohammed Jabbateh among his ULIMO fighters.
After the closing arguments delivered by the Prosecutor and the Defence Counsel on 17 October 2017, the jury issued its verdict on 18 October 2017 finding Mohammed Jabbateh guilty on all four counts.
On 19 April 2018, Judge Paul Diamond sentenced Jabbateh to 30 years in prison, the maximum sentence. This sentence is said to be one of the longest immigration crimes sentences ever issued in the United States.
On 8 September 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected Mohammed Jabbateh’s appeal, upholding his conviction and 30-year prison sentence in full.
The case is particular because, although the charges are drawn from domestic criminal provisions in the field of immigration law, the investigation had to prove the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and rape as prerequisites in order to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubts the fraud and the perjury on immigration documents occurred at the time of the asylum application filed by Mohammed Jabbateh.