Woewiyu Sentencing Delayed by More Than a Month


Philadelphia, USA – Thomas Woewiyu, former spokesman for the National Patriotic Party of Liberia (NPFL), who was convicted by a U.S. court in July for immigration fraud and perjury, has had his sentencing delayed by more than a month until November 26, U.S. Justice Department officials have said.

Report by James Harding Giahyue, Senior Justice Correspondent

Woewiyu’s sentencing was scheduled for October 15, but Justice officials said they needed more time to compile a report before his sentencing. He was convicted on 11 of 16 counts and faces up to 75 years in a U.S. jail. Woewiyu is appealing the verdict.

The delay is inconsequential,” explained Linwood C. Wright, U.S. Assistant District Attorney, in an email on Sunday. “The U.S. Probation Office prepares a pre-sentence investigation report for the Court on every defendant who is convicted of a crime,” he added.   

Woewiyu, 73, became the highest-ranking war criminal to be convicted and sentenced to jail in America. His conviction following the sentencing of Mohammed Jabbateh, alias Jungle Jabbah, for similar offenses in April. Jabbateh became the first person jailed in America for a role in the Liberian civil war.

A founding member, defense minister and spokesman of the faction guilty of the most war crimes and human rights violations according to the Truth and Reconciliation Report, the National Patriotic Party of Liberia (NPFL) of former President Charles Taylor, Woewiyu was the mastermind of the deadly “Octopus” crisis in 1992. (Taylor and Woewiyu have both claimed that the NPFL was founded in the US with former president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.)

From its multisided attack on Monrovia and its environs in mid-October, Octopus is one of the bloodiest events of the Liberian civil war. It and other events between 1990 and 1992 saw more than 50,000 deaths, according to British writer Stephen Ellis in “Mask of Anarchy”.

Woewiyu’s defense lawyers argued that the questions he answered during the trial were complex and unclear, but prosecution lawyers proved that Woewiyu did not tell immigration officials the truth about his role when applying for U.S. citizenship in 2006.

The three-week trial focused on the suffering of all Liberian people during the first civil war but particularly those of the groups the NPFL targeted: Krahns, Mandingos, children recruited to be soldiers and people from other West African nationalities who were living in Liberia at the time.

His conviction was celebrated in Monrovia and other places that witnessed the atrocities of the NPFL.

“I am very happy for Thomas Woewiyu to go to jail because they are the ones who brought this trouble to us,” said Boima John, 61, who lost a leg when the NPFL shelled Sinkor Monrovia’s barely a week in the Octopus crisis. “If they had not brought the trouble, some of us wouldn’t be like this.” John said seven people were killed in the blast.

“We are very happy,” said Richard Duo, who also lost a leg to shelling in the Somalia Drive suburb of Monrovia. “For we victims to live and see such thing happening, it is very much encouraging and we hope that it will continue, not only against Mr. Woewiyu but all those who committed war crimes against their own people.”

This story was a collaboration with New Narratives.