LEIDSCHENDAM, NETHERLANDS (AP) - Fashion icon Naomi Campbell countered allegations that former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor gave her a fistful of diamonds as a flirtatious gift, telling his war crimes trial Thursday that a pouch of “very small, dirty-looking stones” was delivered to her room in the dark of night.
The famously petulant supermodel’s testimony did not provide the smoking gun prosecutors had sought to show Taylor traded in so-called “blood diamonds” to arm rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone. But her appearance drew attention to Africa’s deadly conflicts and the illegal use of resources to finance war.
Instead, she said she was awakened later that night by a knock on her door.
“I opened my door and two men were there and gave me a pouch and said, ‘A gift for you,’” Campbell said, adding she did not know the men or what was inside the bag.
When she opened it the next morning, she said she found a few stones.
“They were kind of dirty-looking pebbles,” she said, adding: “When I’m used to seeing diamonds I’m used to seeing them shiny in a box. If someone hadn’t said they were diamonds I wouldn’t have guessed … that they were.”
“So I just assumed that they were,” she said, adding: “I had never heard of Charles Taylor before, never heard of the country Liberia before, had never heard the term ‘blood diamonds’ before.”
Prosecutors had hoped Campbell would testify that Taylor gave her the diamonds, which would back up their allegations he traded guns to rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for uncut diamonds _ known as “blood diamonds” for their role in financing conflicts _ during the country’s 1992-2002 civil war, which left more than 100,000 dead.
It would also have undermined Taylor’s credibility, since he has denied ever trading in diamonds.
After fighting for months to avoid testifying, Campbell arrived at the courthouse fashionably late Thursday shielded by a police escort.
In contrast to her usual cutting-edge fashion style, she wore a demure cream-colored silk two-piece outfit, her dark hair piled into a classic chignon, and a silver “evil-eye” necklace around her neck.
The 40-year-old supermodel said she hadn’t thought much of the incident 13 years ago _ “I get gifts given to me all the time, at all hours of the night,” she said.