Clad in an Azzedine Alaia cream skirt and cardigan, Naomi Campbell finally testified today in the Hague in the war crimes trial against former Liberian president Charles Taylor and accused warlord. Though the model has spent the last few months trying desperately to avoid testimony — she refused to address the topic on Oprah and knocked down an ABC News camera after being asked about it — a court subpoena gave her no other choice. But for anyone familiar with Naomi’s high-profile persona, it was clear she wasn’t going to go down that easy.
According to transcripts and footage of the trial, Naomi admitted to receiving some “dirty-looking stones” after a dinner party hosted by Nelson Mandela. Though Taylor was present at this dinner party — a photograph in the video below shows the model and the former president standing next to each other — Campbell claims she didn’t know the stones came from Taylor until fellow guest Mia Farrow suggested it.
From the AP report:
Speaking confidently Thursday, Campbell testified that she was awakened in the middle of the night after the September 1997 dinner party by two men at her door. She said they offered her a pouch they said was a gift for her with no further explanation…
She said she frequently receives gifts from admirers and didn’t look at it until the following morning.
“I saw a few stones in there. And they were small, dirty-looking stones,” she said.
She said, at breakfast the following day, either Farrow or Campbell’s former agent Carole White had told her the rocks must be diamonds and were probably a gift from Taylor.
Throughout her testimony, Campbell claimed she had no idea the stones were diamonds and that, at the time, “[She] had never heard of Charles Taylor before, never heard of the country Liberia before, had never heard the term ‘blood diamonds.’”
Furthermore, the AP notes that Campbell seemed decidedly more comfortable answering questions from Taylor’s defense attorney — so much so that the prosecution said it seemed like Campbell was “downplaying” her experience that night. At one point Campbell admitted that she had no interest in being there. “I didn’t really want to be here,” she told the court. “I just want to get this over with and get on with my life, this is a big inconvenience for me.”
When asked why she was so reluctant, Campbell sited Taylor’s violent past and concern for her family’s safety. We’re the first to admit that going up against an accused warlord is undoubtedly a terrifying experience, but of all the people for whom safety could be close to guaranteed — Naomi Campbell probably tops the list.
But later, Campbell even testified on behalf of the defense that some of Farrow and White’s statements were incorrect.
[Griffiths, the defense attorney] said White has suggested that Campbell was seated next to Taylor at the dinner and flirted with him.
White is enmeshed in a legal dispute with Campbell.
“This is a woman who has a powerful motive to lie about you?” Griffiths asked.
“Correct,” Campbell answered, with a slight smile.
The prosecution was hoping that Campbell’s testimony would help tie Taylor to the sale of blood diamonds, which he allegedly used to fund violent militias in Sierra Leone. We’re no experts, but Campbell’s testimony hardly seems like a slam dunk, though, at the very least, throwing her bold-faced name into the mix has raised the profile of this case in a big way.
Campbell’s reluctance stems from
Here’s a segment from The Today Show which includes footage of Naomi’s testimony: