Liberia: Agnes Taylor’s Trial Postponed, Woewiyu Sentencing Further Delayed


MONROVIA – The war crimes trial of Agnes Reeves Taylor, former wife of ex-President Charles Taylor, and the sentencing of Thomas Woewiyu, former spokesman of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), have both been postponed to later dates.

By James Harding Giahyue, New Narratives Senior Justice Correspondent

Taylor’s trial was due to begin in London starting next Monday, February 25, 2019 but was delayed just 10 days before the start date. No word was given on the reason for the delay. A further hearing is scheduled for June. 

The trial of Reeves Taylor, who has been detained since her arrest in 2018, is expected to take 16 weeks and will be a large and costly undertaking for UK prosecutors. Reeves Taylor is being defended by top UK barrister Courtney Griffiths who defended her husband Charles Taylor during his trial by the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone held in The Hague. Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence in a UK prison. Griffiths’ fees are being paid by the UK government. This was the second time Reeves Taylor’s trial has been pushed back after it was rescheduled from January 14, 2019. Experts are predicting that the case may not start until September. 

Woewiyu’s sentencing has been rescheduled for April 30, 2019 after it was moved from October 15, 2018 to November 26, 2018 and then moved again to February 20, 2019.  Woewiyu, 73, faces 75 years imprisonment in the United States after a Philadelphia jury convicted him of 11 counts of criminal fraud and perjury for lying to US immigration authorities about his role in the Liberian civil war. There has been no explanation for the repeated delays. Woewiyu is under house arrest and wears an ankle bracelet. 

Reeves Taylor was arrested in London in July 2018 on eight counts of torture offenses, which were allegedly committed between 1989 and 1991. She denies all allegations against her. 

Reeves Taylor was the third Liberian to face prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Europe for a role in the Liberian civil war after Alieu Kosiah in Switzerland and Martina Johnson in Belgium. 

Woewiyu, a former Minister for Defense under the Taylor government, became the first highest-ranking official to be convicted in America. His conviction follows the sentencing to 30 years of Mohammed Jabbateh, alias Jungle Jabbah, for similar offenses in April 2018. Jabbateh became the first Liberian jailed in America for a role in the Liberian civil war. Charles Taylor’s son Chuckie was convicted as an American for committing torture in Liberia’s civil war and is serving a 97-year sentence in Florida. 

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West African Justice Reporting Project.