The arrest and subsequent detention of Thomas Jucontee Woewiyu by the U.S. Government is pointing to a hope dash as his political interest back home now seems to have a bleak future.
Tom Woewiyu had announced that he would contest the upcoming mid-term October Senatorial election for Grand Bassa County against the wishes and aspirations of the incumbent, Gbehzongar Finely, who currently serves as the Senate Pro-Tempore of the 53rd National Legislature.
Mr. Woewiyu, upon his return from the U.S. last year to Liberia, unveiled his political intention where he had wanted to contest for the senatorial seat for Grand Bassa County.
The former Minister of Defense of one of Liberia’s notorious rebel factions, National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), appeared before a 3-federal judge panel with one judge leading the charge. Mr. Woewiyu was brought into the court, sandwiched by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, who arrested him.
Upon his arrest last week, Thomas Jucontee Weoewiyu was identified as the former Liberian Minister of National Defense and a spokesman of the erstwhile rebel NPFL.
If he is found guilty, he faces a US$4 million fine and a 110-year imprisonment sentence.
In line with his arrest order, Tom has been described a ‘flight risk,’ meaning he would escape to Liberia if his bail is filed. He was subsequently denied bill.
Based on this, the U.S. denied him (Woewiyu) bail.
He has already been charged with ‘perjury,’ lying on his citizenship application by failing to disclose his alleged affiliation with a “violent political group in Liberia,” during the height of the country’s civil crisis, which lasted over a decade.
Woewiyu served as Defense Minister in Charles Taylor’s former rebel National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government (NPRAG), which then controlled “greater Libria.”
Upon his arrest, his immigration lawyer, Raymond Basso, said his client amended his citizenship application to include his participation in the Taylor regime.
But Linwood C. Wright, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Philadelphia, said Judge Judith Faith Angell denied bail, “because she believed Woewiyu might try to leave (runaway) from the U.S. should he be bailed.
“There was a detention hearing and Woewiyu was ordered detained by a U.S. Magistrate. The magistrate found that he (Woewiyu) was a ‘flight risk,’ and so she ordered him detained pending his trial,” Wright said.
Raymond Basso, Woewiyu’s immigration lawyer, told VOA last week the case against his client was purely an immigration matter, and that it was a “misconception” (mistaken belief) to suggest that he was being charged with war crimes.