Naomi Campbell to give war crimes testimony

2010-08-05 08:18

Judges have rejected a last-minute protest from former Liberian

ruler Charles Taylor, clearing the way for British fashion model Naomi Campbell

to testify at his war crimes trial today.

The reluctant Campbell has been subpoenaed to testify about a

diamond Taylor allegedly gave her after a dinner party hosted by Nelson Mandela

in South Africa in 1997.

Taylor’s lawyer, Courtenay Griffiths, had argued that Campbell

should not appear until prosecutors provided a summary of her likely


But judges rejected that argument in yesterday’s ruling, saying it

was not reasonable to expect prosecutors to obtain a statement beforehand from

Campbell, who is in essence a hostile witness.

Prosecutors say that if Taylor really gave Campbell the diamond, it

would help show he received diamonds from Sierra Leone rebels in exchange for

weapons during Sierra Leone’s 1992-2002 civil war.

Prosecutors say that from his seat of power in Liberia, Taylor

armed, trained and commanded Sierra Leone rebels who murdered and mutilated

thousands of civilians across the border.

Taylor has said he is innocent of the 11 war crimes charges he

faces, including murder, rape, sexual enslavement and recruiting child


He has also denied involvement in the diamond trade in general and

has insisted that he did not bring any diamonds to the celebrity-studded dinner

he and Campbell attended in South Africa in September 1997.

The story of the diamond gift surfaced via actress Mia Farrow, who

told prosecutors in a statement that Campbell told her the morning after the

dinner that Taylor’s men had come to her room during the night and presented her

with a rough, or uncut, diamond. Farrow is due to testify in person on August


However, it is far from clear what Campbell will say in court


She declined to cooperate with prosecutors until judges last month

ordered her to appear, or face a maximum sentence of seven years for


In April, she told ABC news she “never received a diamond” from

Taylor and didn’t want to talk about it.

In May, she told Oprah Winfrey she

didn’t want to be involved in Taylor’s case and feared for her safety.

Judges have ordered special security measures for Campbell, saying

her fears for her safety and privacy are legitimate because of her high profile

and the intense media interest in her appearance.

The hot-tempered Campbell (40) is no stranger to courtrooms, having

faced a series of minor lawsuits and criminal cases over the years.

In June 2008 she pleaded guilty in an incident where she cursed,

kicked and spat at police at London’s Heathrow airport in a rage over a missing

piece of luggage. She was sentenced to 200 hours of community service.

She also did a week of community service sweeping floors and

scrubbing toilets in a Manhattan garbage-truck garage in 2007 after pleading

guilty to misdemeanour assault for hurling a cellphone at her maid because of a

vanished pair of jeans.

In 2000, Campbell pleaded guilty in Toronto to an assault charge

for beating an assistant, who said the model whacked her on the head with a


A few of Campbell’s former aides and maids have sued her, accusing

her of violent outbursts. Some cases have been settled on undisclosed


Campbell became one of the world’s highest-paid models after being

discovered while shopping in London at age 15.

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