Arguments begin in immigration trial of ex-Liberian official

Prosecutors say a Liberian man living outside Philadelphia is a war criminal who misled immigration officials on his U.S. citizenship application.

But a lawyer for Thomas Woewiyu emphasized during opening statements in his trial Tuesday that he was charged with an immigration crime, not war crimes.

Prosecutors and federal investigators have said Woewiyu was the public face and one-time defense minister of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia and they believe he lied when he said on immigration forms that he had never taken part in the overthrow of a government. The group, led by Charles Taylor, sparked a multifaction tribal conflict and civil war in the west African country.

Philly.com reports that prosecutors intend to present witnesses to talk about Woewiyu's role in the conflict during the three-week trial.