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Model Naomi Campbell testifies at war crimes trial

Naomi Campbell has testified at the war crimes trial of former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor, confirming she received a gift of 'dirty-looking stones.' The stones are thought to have been rough diamonds.

Naomi Campbell

Campbell had to be subpoenaed by the prosecution

Naomi Campbell took the stand in the Hague as an unlikely witness in the war crimes trial of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor.

The British supermodel has confirmed that she received a gift of "dirty-looking stones" she assumed was from Taylor after a 1997 dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela.

"When I was sleeping I had a knock at my door," Campbell told prosecutors from the Special Court for Sierra Leone, who are trying to prove that the stones were rough diamonds Taylor acquired in exchange for weapons from rebels in Sierra Leone during that country's 1992-2002 civil war.

Taylor says he never possessed rough diamonds.

"I opened my door and two men were there and gave me a pouch and said: 'A gift for you.'"

Campbell said she left the pouch next to her bed, went back to sleep and opened it the next morning.

"I saw a few stones in there. Very small, dirty-looking stones," she said, adding that she was not initially aware that they were diamonds. "I am used to seeing diamonds shiny and in a box, you know."

'Didn't want to keep them'

Naomi Campbell is seen on a screen in the pressroom of the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone near the Hague in the Netherlands.

Campbell appeared for some 90 minutes, never asserting that the gift came from Taylor

Campbell said she told her then agent Carole White and actress Mia Farrow about the gift at breakfast the following morning, with these people surmising that the stones must have come from Charles Taylor.

Campbell also said she didn't know Taylor before the September 25 dinner and had not heard of the country of Liberia at the time.

The model said she had passed the stones on to the head of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund later that day, adding she was astonished to discover last year - 12 years after the event - that they were still in his possession.

Campbell rejected statements claiming that she had been flirtatious with Taylor during the celebrity dinner. She also said she wasn't surprised to receive the stone without an explanation or a note.

"I get gifts given to me all the time, at all hours of the night," she told the court.

The prosecution team is trying to prove that Taylor trafficked in so-called blood diamonds while ruling Liberia, and that he was trying to gain "political and physical" control of Sierra Leone and its valuable natural resources during that country's protracted civil war.

Charles Taylor was originally indicted in 2003 on 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict in Sierra Leone; his lengthy trial is ongoing.

Author: Mark Hallam (AFP/AP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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