Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a news release Monday that agents returned a Liberian national to his home country on grounds that he is suspected of violating human rights and being aligned with a terrorist organization.
Charles Cooper, 45, had served as a bodyguard to former Liberian President Charles Taylor and was a member of a paramilitary police unit before coming to the United States. Enforcement and Removal Operations deportation officers returned him to Liberia on June 19, according to ICE.
“This individual is a human rights violator; he was a member of an organization known for setting fires to whole villages, and it is because of the diligence of ICE and its officers that this man is no longer living comfortably within our communities,” said Thomas Decker, field office director for ERO New York. “It is important to note that the safety of the public is our top priority, and ICE continues to target criminal aliens taking refuge in our cities after having committed crimes in their home country.”
ICE said it discovered in an investigation that prior to coming to the U.S. Cooper was directly involved in the persecution of civilians in Liberia and had joined a rebel group that committed numerous human rights violations. The group was founded by the former Liberian president.
Cooper traveled to the U.S. in January 2006 as a non-immigrant visitor, authorized to stay until August 2006, ICE said. Cooper did not exit the U.S. and was placed into removal proceedings in December 2006.
ICE said Cooper was ordered for removal by an immigration judge in Baltimore in August 2014. He appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), which dismissed the appeal in February 2016. In August 2017, Cooper was arrested by police in New York on DWI charges. ERO deportation officers lodged an immigration detainer, but New York police released Cooper without notifying ICE or allowing him to enter ERO custody.
Cooper was again arrested May 5 on Staten Island by ERO deportations officers.
Taylor, Liberia’s former leader during the civil war from 1998-2002, was sentenced to 50 years in prison by a court in Sierra Leone, which found him guilty of war crimes.
A 2012 New York Times analysis alleged that Taylor armed groups of rebel militias that committed murder, rape and torture on civilians throughout the 1990s.
ICE said Cooper was transferred into the custody of Liberian law enforcement authorities upon arrival in the nation’s capital, Monrovia.