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Supermodel Naomi Campbell is known nowadays as much for her outbursts as her outfits. Now she finds herself caught up in yet another controversy. Prosecutors at the international tribunal in the Netherlands have summoned her to testify in the war crimes trial of the former leader of Liberia. The many charges against Charles Taylor include alleged involvement in the trade of so- called blood diamonds - gems that were used to finance a civil war in the neighboring West African nation of Sierra Leone. Gregory Crouch has our report.
GREGORY CROUCH: The prosecution alleges that Taylor, while president of Liberia, teamed up with rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone to rob that country of its natural resources, including diamonds. Tens of thousands of people were killed or maimed in the process.
BRENDA HOLLIS: In Sierra Leone, you had crimes of mutilation, serial rapes, enslaving people.
CROUCH: Prosecutor Brenda Hollis alleges Taylor took diamonds from rebels in Sierra Leone and gave them weapons and ammunition in return. Taylor has denied all of the charges against him, which include murder, recruiting child soldiers and terrorizing civilians.
CHARLES TAYLOR: Most definitely I'm not guilty.
CROUCH: Taylor's defense is currently making its case, but the prosecution recently got the court's permission to reopen its case after hearing of possible new evidence dating back to 1997.
HOLLIS: In South Africa, after a dinner party attended by Mr. Taylor, Naomi Campbell, Mia Farrow and others, individuals came to where Naomi Campbell was lodging and gave her a diamond, indicating that the diamond came from Mr. Charles Taylor. The next morning she related that story to Mia Farrow and perhaps others at breakfast.
CROUCH: But Campbell recently told a producer for ABC News, that never happened.
NAOMI CAMPBELL: I didn't receive a diamond and I'm not going to speak about that. Thank you very much.
CROUCH: Charles Taylor's defense attorney, Courtenay Griffiths, says prosecutors are desperate.
COURTENAY GRIFFITHS: The prosecution have obtained a subpoena for a witness whom they know in advance is not going to support their case. The bottom line is, the prosecution are calling this evidence and have made a big deal out of it in order to get some cheap publicity.
CROUCH: One witness, Varmuyan Sherif, told the court here he saw a rebel leader with a mayonnaise jar full of diamonds, in his jacket, just prior to a meeting with Taylor.
VARMUYAN SHERIF: He took a jacket off, to hang it. While in the process of taking his jacket off, I saw the bottle, the mayonnaise bottle, with diamond in it in his pocket.
CROUCH: Taylor scoffed at the idea.
TAYLOR: I'm supposed to be such a scumbag that people bringing me diamonds in nothing but a mayonnaise jar? How much more can you demonize me?
CROUCH: Defense attorney Griffiths says his client is not guilty of the charges against him, but acknowledges Taylor knows some bad people.
GRIFFITHS: I'm not suggesting that Charles Taylor is a saint.
CROUCH: For NPR News, this is Gregory Crouch in Leidschendam, The Netherlands.
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