Judges clear the way for Naomi Campbell to testify at Charles Taylor’s war crimes trial

By Toby Sterling, AP
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Naomi Campbell to speak at Taylor war crimes case

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Judges 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 on Thursday.

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 provide a summary of her likely testimony.

But judges rejected that in Wednesday’s ruling, saying it was not reasonable to expect prosecutors to obtain a statement beforehand from Campbell, who is essentially 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 soldiers.

He has also denied involvement in the diamond trade in general, and specifically said 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 Aug. 9.

However it is far from clear what Campbell — who has a lengthy history of her own, less serious legal troubles — will say in court on Thursday.

She declined to cooperate with prosecutors until judges last month ordered her to appear or face a maximum sentence of seven years for contempt.

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 if she were.

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 misdemeanor assault for hurling a cell phone 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 phone.

A few of Campbell’s former aides and maids have sued her, accusing her of violent outbursts; some cases have been settled on undisclosed terms.

Campbell became one of the world’s highest-paid models after being discovered while shopping in London at age 15.

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