Proceedings in the deportation trial of accused Liberian war criminal George Boley closed last week in Batavia Immigration Court. Judge John Reid granted the Department of Homeland Security’s request to submit its closing arguments in writing by June 17. The judge will make his decision after Boley’s attorney, Matthew Kolken, responds.
Boley is alleged to have committed atrocities during Liberia’s civil wars as head of a group of freedom fighters called the Liberia Peace Council. DHS also alleges Boley did not have valid immigration papers allowing him to travel between the two countries. Proceedings in court last week included the testimony of two Liberian witnesses in defense of Boley.
A Liberian government official, Charles G. Breeze, testified Boley never had control of a military group and was simply a politician pursuing peace in the country. A former captain in the Liberian armed forces in charge of special security, Isaac Kanah, testified that at no point was Boley not surrounded by security forces monitoring his actions.
Kolken said Kanah was willing to testify for the defense despite being threatened with deportation by DHS special agent, Eugene Allman, who also testified in the proceedings. Kolken said Allman went to the home of the witness, who is in the United States legally, and told him to “get on the bus or get run over by the bus.”
“It seems unusual that a government agent would admit he threatened a material witness with deportation,” Kolken said of Allman’s testimony.
The inability of Liberian witnesses to attend the trial and testify has plagued both the prosecution and the defense in the trial, which began last September. Kolken said the visas of two of his witnesses were blocked by immigration officials last week — an issue he intended to address in his closing argument.
“I believe we have a very astute judge who knows the law as well as anybody and I believe he’ll give a fair ruling,” Kolken said. “The judge will base his decision on what’s in the record, not what the lawyers say in closing argument.”
Boley has been held in detention by DHS since early 2010. He maintains a website regarding the trial, his life, and his work in Liberia and the Rochester area at www.freegeorgeboley.yolasite.com.