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Question of the Day
LEIDSCHENDAM, NETHERLANDS (AP) - Naomi Campbell flirted with Liberia’s former president across the dinner table at Nelson Mandela’s presidential mansion in 1997 and boasted the following morning that Charles Taylor had given her a huge diamond during the night, Mia Farrow and another witness testified at Taylor’s war crimes trial Monday.
Prosecutors hope testimony from the actress-turned-human rights activist and from Campbell’s estranged former modeling agent will help tie Taylor to the illicit “blood diamond” trade that fueled Sierra Leone’s civil war. Both contradicted Campbell’s account from the witness stand last week that she did not know the nature or value of what she had received.
However, even if judges accept the women’s testimony, it seems unlikely to change the course of the trial. Neither claimed to know for certain it was Taylor that gave Campbell the diamonds, meaning the episode will almost certainly be a surreal interlude of glamour in a grim case focused on murder and mutilation in the jungles of West Africa.
He has dismissed suggestions he was involved in the diamond trade as “complete, complete nonsense.”
Campbell, who resisted appearing before the war-crimes court for months, testified under subpoena Thursday that she was given several small “dirty-looking” stones by men she didn’t know after the function in Pretoria.
Defense lawyers accused the prosecution of calling the unlikely witnesses as a publicity stunt to raise the profile of the trial, which has gone on for more than two years. Taylor himself was on the stand for seven months, portraying himself as an African liberator and statesman who sought to bring stability and peace to his turbulent corner of the continent.
Taylor’s chief counsel, Courtenay Griffiths, said Farrow was unlikely to accurately remember what happened at a breakfast 13 years ago. He noted that Campbell received three uncut diamonds _ not the single diamond Farrow insisted she heard Campbell talk about.
The defense also suggested Farrow’s credibility was tainted by her activism, particularly her campaigns for the victims of Africa’s wars.
South African businessman Jeremy Ractliffe, the former head of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, confirmed last week he had three stones he had received from Campbell to donate to charity after the 1997 dinner. He said he hadn’t done anything with them because he feared that a blood diamond scandal might attach to Mandela or Campbell as a result. He has now handed them over to South African authorities and they have been identified as uncut diamonds, but their origins are unknown.
In court, Judge Julia Sebutinde asked Farrow whether it was possible she might have seen the 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” and been influenced by its plot, which centers on a single large diamond.
But Farrow denied any suggestion that she was confusing reality with Hollywood.
“I think she was flirting with him and he was flirting back,” she said.
She said Campbell later appeared disappointed when she saw the uncut diamonds and they were “not very impressive and not enormously big.”
Campbell has served community service twice after pleading guilty in minor assault cases. A few of her former aides and maids have sued her, accusing her of violent outbursts and usually settling on undisclosed terms.
In all, 91 witnesses testified against Taylor before this week.
The court has heard evidence of radio dispatches between him and rebels, how weapons were allegedly smuggled in bags of rice in exchange for diamonds carried in a mayonnaise jar. The court has also heard from numerous victims and witnesses of atrocities. One of Taylor’s former aides testified to witnessing Taylor eat a human liver.
His lawyers have dismissed such allegations as lies.
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