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Court allows Campbell "blood diamond" testimony

By | July 2nd 2010


British supermodel Naomi Campbell can be called to give evidence over a "blood diamond" prosecutors say she was given by former Liberian president Charles Taylor, the Sierra Leone war crimes court has ruled.

Prosecutors at the Special Court for Sierra Leone sought in May to call Campbell, who has so far refused to testify, saying she can provide material evidence to rebut Taylor's claims that he never possessed rough diamonds.

In a ruling, the court directed the prosecution to call testimony from Campbell, modelling agent Carole White and U.S. actress Mia Farrow and indicated that subpoenas for them to appear would be approved.

The court said the three should appear as soon as possible, before the close of the defence's case. This was expected to be in August or September although no date was set for the witnesses to appear.

In January, prosecutors said that during a visit to South Africa in 1997 Taylor gave Campbell a large rough cut diamond following a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela.

British model Naomi Campbell. [PHOTO: AP]

Prosecutors say White heard Taylor say he was going to give Campbell some diamonds and was there when Campbell received them, while Farrow attended the reception where Campbell met Taylor and was told by Campbell about the gift the next morning.

Prosecutors accuse Taylor of taking diamonds to South Africa to buy weapons, which Taylor denies.

On trial in The Hague, Taylor denies all 11 charges of instigating murder, rape, mutilation, sexual slavery and conscription of child soldiers during wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in which more than 250,000 people were killed.

Prosecutors say Taylor armed and directed Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels to win control of neighbouring Sierra Leone's diamond mines and destabilise its government to boost his regional influence during the country's 1991-2002 civil war.

A spokeswoman in London said Campbell had no comment to make on the ruling at this stage.

Defence lawyers had resisted the move to call the three witnesses, saying they were unlikely to appear and dismissing the evidence as "inconsistent, highly prejudicial and tangential".

They said the prosecution should have already investigated Taylor's trip to South Africa to determine whether he had been carrying diamonds and whether he received arms.

The judges indicated they would approve subpoenas for the three women to appear and noted the prosecutors' assurances that they would only need one day in court to question them.

A subpoena, once approved, would be served on Campbell and a copy would also be given to the authorities of her country of residence. Campbell has said she spends part of her time in Russia with her Russian boyfriend.

Court spokesman Peter Andersen said judges had in the past been reluctant to allow written testimony and it was expected that evidence would be given in person.





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