Former Liberian Government Army General Charged in Philadelphia, United States, in connection with alleged war-time crimes

Yesterday, June 23, an indictment charging former Commanding General of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Moses Wright, was unsealed.

He was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania with fraudulently attempting to obtain citizenship, fraud in immigration documents, false statements in relation to naturalization, and perjury in connection with his fraudulent attempt to obtain US citizenship.

Former General Wright is suspected of having lied to U.S. immigration authorities about atrocities he allegedly committed or ordered troops under his command to commit, including but not limited to: persecution of civilian noncombatant Gio and Mano tribesmen, murder of civilian noncombatants, assault of civilian noncombatants, false arrest of civilian noncombatants and false imprisonment of civilian noncombatants.

Former General Wright’s case is the fourth public criminal prosecution in Philadelphia in connection with the Liberian Civil Wars. It follows the 2017 conviction and 30-year prison sentence handed down to Mohammed Jabbateh, former ULIMO (United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy) commander, and the 2018 conviction of Thomas Woewiyu, former spokesman and Minister for Defence of the NPFL (National Patriotic Front of Liberia), who died of COVID in April 2020 before he could be sentenced.

In March 2022, Sekou Kamara, allegedly a former LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) high ranking commander was arrested in New York. He is accused of allegedly lying to the US immigration authorities about his purported role in the armed group. 

Civitas Maxima and its sister organization in Liberia, the Global Justice and Research Project (GJRP), have provided assistance to the U.S. authorities during these previous investigations by facilitating the travel of nearly 40 Liberian victims to Philadelphia to testify in court against Jabbateh and Woewiyu, and, in cooperation with external partners, undertook legal monitoring of both trials.

This is also the tenth public case since 2012 in relation to which Civitas Maxima and the GJRP have provided assistance, one way or another, to U.S. and European authorities.

If convicted, Moses Wright faces a maximum possible sentence of 165 years in prison and a USD 7’000’000 fine.

This case was investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia Field Office with assistance from HSI’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center in Washington D.C, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the United States Embassy in Liberia.  

It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Linwood C. Wright, Jr., and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson S.T. Thayer, Jr.

AFL history of ethnically-targeted massacres

The AFL was named as one of the “significant violator groups” by the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and was found responsible for some of the largest scale massacres of the first Liberian Civil War. These included the St Peter’s Lutheran Church Massacre, in which approximately 600 mostly Gio and Mano civilians were slaughtered while sheltering in the Church; and the JFK Hospital Massacre in which approximately 250 Gios and Manos were slaughtered.

Civitas Maxima and the GJRP have been assisting the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) in their civil suit in the United States, on behalf of four survivors of the Lutheran Church Massacre, against former Colonel in the AFL and former commander of the SATU (Special Anti-Terrorist Unit), Moses Thomas, for his alleged role in the massacre. Thomas has since returned to Liberia from the U.S., but the proceedings against him have continued in the U.S., and on September 16, 2021, a Pennsylvania court found him liable for the massacre of 600 civilian at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

The TRC also specifically named Moses Wright, along with Moses Thomas and others, as having massacred 27 families of Mano and Gio AFL members at the Barclay Training Centre (BTC) barracks in Monrovia, in June 1990.

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