Prosecutors seek Naomi Campbell testimony in Taylor trial

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Prosecutors at the Special Court for Sierra Leone want to hear testimony from model Naomi Campbell about a so-called ‘blood diamond’ at the war crimes trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

The prosecution filed a motion with the court on Thursday seeking to hear testimony from Campbell but the court still needs to rule on whether to subpoena her, a court spokesman said.

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 neighboring Sierra Leone’s diamond mines and destabilize its government to boost his regional influence during the country’s 1991-2002 civil war.

In January, prosecutors alleged Taylor gave Campbell a large rough cut diamond during a 1997 trip to South Africa following a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela, accusing him of taking the diamonds to South Africa to buy weapons.

“That is totally, totally incorrect,” Taylor had replied.

In its motion on Thursday, the prosecution said Campbell’s evidence concerns a “central issue” in the case and she is in a position to provide “material evidence” to rebut Taylor’s claims that he never possessed rough diamonds.

The prosecution said it has made repeated, but unsuccessful requests to interview Campbell about the event, adding that the British supermodel was “concerned for her safety” and that “judicial intervention” was now necessary to obtain her testimony.

The spokesman for the court could not say when judges would rule on whether to order Campbell to give testimony, but added it could be within the next few days to a week.

The prosecution is also seeking testimony from modeling agent Carole White and actress Mia Farrow, who it said are both prepared to give testimony.

The prosecution said 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.

Taylor’s trial was transferred in 2006 to The Hague due to concerns that a trial at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown would have sparked local unrest.

The first African ruler to stand trial for war crimes, Taylor has argued the case against him is full of lies and that he tried to broker peace in the region.

Taylor’s lead defense lawyer was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Charles Dick