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Robertson And Allies Scheme To Bring Liberian Dictator To America.

TV preacher Pat Robertson and his allies in Virginia Beach are working to bring Liberian president Charles Taylor and his wife to the United States, even though Taylor is accused of masterminding a bloody civil war that has left thousands dead.

Robertson, working with the Rev. John Gimenez of the Rock Church, tried to arrange a visit by Taylor's wife, Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, to Virginia Beach in June. The visit fell through at the last minute after the death of Liberia's vice president -- a death that Charles Taylor is accused of having arranged.

Taylor is also accused of bankrolling rebels in nearby Sierra Leone, sparking a brutal civil war that has left thousands dead. But Gimenez told the Virginian Pilot newspaper that he does not believe U.S. State Department reports that accuse Taylor of backing the war in Sierra Leone. Those rebels, according to the State Department, have raped and murdered thousands of civilians in Sierra Leone and committed numerous other atrocities, including forcing children as young as 10 to join their army.

Gimenez, who has branches of his church in Liberia, admits that Taylor is not the most honorable world leader but adds, "The State' Department is not the Bible. If I hobnob with Taylor, it's because he needs Jesus.... If the devil was the president, we'd still go there."

Even reports that Taylor arranged the murder of Liberian opposition leader Samuel Dokie in 1997 have not shaken Gimenez's faith in the man. He told the paper, "It was terrible what happened to Dokie. His wife, who was a wonderful lady, they just chopped her up in pieces ... Even Dokie's children believe Taylor did it. I don't know one way or the other.... It could have been him. I'm not saying he didn't do it. Dokie was very vocal against Taylor in the elections. If Taylor was behind it, nobody knows."

Despite Taylor's record, Gimenez and Robertson persuaded Norfolk City Councilman G. Conoly Phillips to cosponsor the visit by Madam Jewel. Other sponsors of the event were to be Gimenez's church and Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. During the visit, Madam Jewel was slated to make an appearance at Robertson's Regent University.

Gimenez is responsible for introducing Robertson to Taylor. Robertson later invested in a gold-mining operation in the country's Bukon Jedeh region.

Natives of Sierra Leone and Liberia who live in Virginia were appalled at the proposed visit. "It's identifying the city with a mass murderer," said Jimmy Kandeh, a Sierra Leone native and professor of political science at the University of Richmond. "I can't believe any Christian or churchgoing person would want him in their midst."

George H. Nubo, managing editor of a Liberian newsmagazine told the Virginian Pilot, "The rightful place for him [Taylor] is the war crimes tribunal, not in Norfolk."

Missionaries who have traveled in Liberia say Taylor has ruined the country. The Rev. Jeri Bishop, a Methodist minister who was in the country last May, said many people live in the rubble of their homes or in tents outside. Only a few government buildings and Taylor's palaces remain undamaged in the capital.

"The people there, they're scared to death of him," Bishop said of Taylor. "I find it difficult that the church is going to hail this man who began such a brutal war in Liberia."
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Title Annotation:Pat Robertson
Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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