Former Liberian President Charles Taylor’s defense lawyers on Monday opposed a request by prosecutors at his war crimes trial to call supermodel Naomi Campbell as a witness, branding the move “a publicity stunt.”
Prosecutors earlier this month filed a motion seeking to have Campbell subpoenaed to testify about claims Taylor gave her “blood diamonds” at a reception in South Africa in 1997.
But Taylor’s lawyers said the evidence was “tangential to the real issues” against Taylor and said prosecutors were trying to introduce it too late in the trial — 15 months after they closed their case.
“For the prosecution to present such inferential evidence at this advanced stage, as part of an obvious publicity stunt, would bring the administration ofjustice into serious disrepute,” Taylor’s British lawyer Courtenay Griffiths wrote to judges.
According to the prosecution motion seeking a subpoena, Campbell told prosecutors through her lawyer she does not want to get involved in the case and is concerned for her safety.
Prosecutors want Campbell to testify about Taylor’s alleged gift of diamonds along with actress Mia Farrow and another witness, Carole White, who were both at the same reception in South Africa.
In a written statement to the court, Farrow said Campbell told her that two or three men woke her up and “presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor.”
White says she heard Taylor say he was going to give Campbell diamonds and saw them being delivered.
Prosecutors say Campbell’s testimony would provide “direct evidence of the accused’s possession of rough diamonds from a witness unrelated to the Liberian or Sierra Leone conflicts.”
Taylor, once one of West Africa’s most powerful men, is charged with 11 counts of murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers and terrorism in his role backing rebels in Sierra Leone’s 1991-2002 civil war.
An estimated 500,000 people were the victims of killings, systematic mutilation or other atrocities in that war, with some of the worst crimes committed by child soldiers who were drugged to desensitize them.
It is unclear when judges will rule on the prosecution request.