Naomi Campbell Testifies In War Crimes Trial

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British model Naomi Campbell appeared Thursday at the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. She testified that she had received a pouch of uncut diamonds after meeting Taylor at a charity dinner in 1997 in South Africa. But, she said, she did not know if the gift came from Taylor. Prosecutors are trying to link Taylor to the so-called blood diamonds, which have been used to finance a civil war in Sierra Leone. Melissa Block talks to BBC reporter Peter Biles about what happened in the courtroom.


After resisting testifying for months, today supermodel Naomi Campbell finally took the witness stand under subpoena at the war crimes of former Liberian President Charles Taylor in The Hague. And she told the court she wasnt happy about it.

Ms. NAOMI CAMPBELL (Model): Well, I didnt really want to be here so I was made to be here. So obviously Im just like wanting to get this over with and get on with my life. This is a big inconvenience for me.

BLOCK: Naomi Campbell was called by the prosecution to testify about diamonds she received after a dinner party in 1997, allegedly a gift from Charles Taylor.

Taylor is accused of using blood diamonds to finance a brutal civil war in Liberia's neighbor, Sierra Leone.

The BBC's Peter Biles is covering the trial. He joins us from The Hague. And, Peter, tell us what Naomi Campbell said about those diamonds that prosecutors say Charles Taylor gave her.

Mr. PETER BILES (Reporter, BBC): She simply said the two men came to her room late at night after the dinner and gave her a cuffed pouch. And she didnt ask who they were. She didnt ask where they'd come from. And she didnt ask what was in the pouch. She simply put it to one side. She said she was tired, she went to bed and woke up the next morning and found what she said were rather shoddy looking stones, pebbles in the bag, which turned out to be uncut diamonds. And she discussed it with Mia Farrow, the actress, who was also a guest at this function.

They discussed it over breakfast, along with Carol White - Naomi Campbell's former agent. And one of the two women apparently said to Naomi Campbell: well, these must have come from Charles Taylor. But Naomi Campbell simply accepted that assumption. There was no proof provided to the court whether that indeed was the case.

BLOCK: Yeah, prosecutors today asked her who she thought gave those stones to her. She said she assumed it was Taylor. And let's listen to what she said right after that.

Ms. CAMPBELL: I dont know. I don't know anything about Charles Taylor, never heard of him before, never heard of the country Liberia before. I never heard of the term of blood diamonds before. So I just assumed that it was.

BLOCK: So Naomi Campbell there saying she had never heard of Liberia before.

She was called by the prosecution, as we said, do you think she helped their case in any way? What are they trying to show here?

Mr. BILES: No, I think it actually backfired for the prosecution. You're right, she was subpoena to appear. The chief defense lawyer, Courtney Griffiths, came out and gave a news conference immediately afterwards and said that the prosecution had scored an earned goal and that Naomi Campbell had blown up spectacularly in their faces. Because they had called her to give evidence and much of the evidence did not provide them with the link to Charles Taylor and to the so-called blood diamonds, that they must have been hoping they were going to get.

BLOCK: Well, what is the connection that the prosecution is trying to draw here between this dinner in South Africa in 1997 - these diamonds - and the weapons used in the civil war in Sierra Leone?

Mr. BILES: Well, what is being alleged is that Charles Taylor, while president in Liberia, was engaged in supporting the RUF rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during the civil war. So then it is alleged that Charles Taylor was trading weapons for uncut diamonds. And what they say in particular - and thats why this event in South Africa is important - is that on the timeline, a shipment of weapons to Sierra Leone followed very soon after the night when Charles Taylor is supposed to have had blood diamonds in his possession and handed one or two of them to Naomi Campbell.

BLOCK: Well, who is still coming up with testimony before the court in The Hague?

Mr. BILES: Well, whats interesting now is that Mia Farrow and Carol White, they're both due to appear and give evidence on Monday. But we've already heard statements from the two women which seems to suggest that much of their evidence may well contradict what we've heard from Naomi Campbell today. So it's quite a difficult moment.

And the defense lawyer, Courtney Griffiths, was suggesting that the prosecution might not want to bring Mia Farrow and Carol White to the court on Monday, simply because everything will contradict what we've already heard from Naomi Campbell. It's a very confused situation, to be honest.

BLOCK: Okay, the BBC's Peter Biles covering the trial of Charles Taylor in The Hague. Peter, thanks very much.

Mr. BILES: Thank you.

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