The indictment charges him with perjury, fraud and related offenses. Woewiyu, who is in federal custody, appeared yesterday before U.S. Magistrate M. Faith Angell dressed in a forest-green prison jumpsuit. Angell assigned him an assistant federal defender and rescheduled his bail hearing and arraignment for Friday.
Woewiyu, who has been a legal permanent resident of the U.S. since 1972, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI at Newark Airport on Monday.
The indictment alleges that in the late 1980s, he helped found the military organization the National Patriotic Front of Liberia with Taylor. The group's goal was to overthrow Liberia's government, then led by Samuel Doe, who was considered corrupt and repressive.
Doe was killed in 1990 by a splinter faction of the NPFL, but that didn't stop the NPFL from waging a brutal fight for control of the country, the indictment says.
Taylor tapped Woewiyu to serve as NPFL's defense minister from 1990 to 1994, and it was then that the group "conducted a particularly heinous and brutal military campaign" by killing peacekeepers and aid workers, raping girls and women, and forcing youngsters to fight as child soldiers, the indictment says.
After Taylor became president of Liberia in 1997, Woewiyu served as his minister of labor from 1997 to 1999.
Woewiyu's immigration attorney, Ray Basso, said after his client's appearance in court that Woewiyu "had no involvement" in the alleged war-crime atrocities.
He said Woewiyu had filled out his application for naturalization by himself, but later sought his help. Basso said Woewiyu later disclosed his affiliation with the NPFL to immigration. He said Woewiyu was exonerated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that investigated Liberia's civil war. It "never found he was a persecutor," Basso said.
Taylor was sentenced by an international tribunal in May 2012 to 50 years in prison on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in relation to his support of rebels who committed atrocities in neighboring Sierra Leone, during its civil war in the 1990s.
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