Wednesday, June 30, 2010

War crimes prosecutors cleared to call Naomi Campbell

THE HAGUE — A war crimes court will allow prosecutors to call supermodel Naomi Campbell to testify over a "blood diamond" she was allegedly given by Liberian ex-president Charles Taylor, it said on Wednesday.

Actress Mia Farrow can also be called to the stand over claims that Campbell was given the rough diamond by Taylor after a dinner hosted by former South African president Nelson Mandela in September 1997.

"The trial chamber hereby grants the motion" filed by prosecutors in May seeking permission to call Campbell, Farrow, and the model's former agent Carole White to the stand, said a decision by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, dated June 29 and made public on Wednesday.

Campbell has refused to give evidence on the matter, but Farrow and White, both present at the dinner, were willing to do so, according to the prosecution's request to the court.

A court spokesman said Wednesday the prosecution was awaiting the outcome of a separate application for a subpoena compelling Campbell to appear.

In its filing to the court, the prosecution claimed that White was present when the diamond was delivered, while Farrow "was told by Ms Campbell the next morning about the gift".

"She told us ... she had been awakened in the night by a knocking at her door. She opened the door to find two or three men -- I do not recall how many -- who presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor," Farrow said in a declaration in the hands of prosecutors.

The prosecution alleges the rough diamond was among those Taylor had obtained from Sierra Leone rebels and took to South Africa "to sell ... or exchange them from weapons".

Taylor, 62, has been on trial in The Hague since January 2008 on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity stemming from the 1991-2001 civil war in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

He is accused of having fuelled war there by arming the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in exchange for "blood diamonds" -- the name given to diamonds mined in rebel-held regions of Africa and sold to fund warfare.

The RUF is blamed for the mutilation of thousands of civilians who had their hands and arms severed in one of the most brutal wars in modern history, which claimed some 120,000 lives.

Prosecutors said they had not known about the Campbell diamond, which they consider "material" to the case, until June 2009 -- by which time they had already closed their case, now in the phase of hearing defence witnesses.

Taylor has opposed the bid to reopen the prosecution case to call the women, saying in court papers the evidence sought was "more appropriate for a screen-play than a courtroom hearing".

But a panel of four judges, having studied Farrow's declaration and notes of an interview with White, found the proposed new evidence was "highly probative".

It allowed the prosecution to reopen its case and call the three to the stand before the last defence witness expected to be heard in August.

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