Blood diamonds at heart of Charles Taylor's warcrimes trial
Blood diamonds, like the one he allegedly gave to supermodel Naomi Campbell, are at the heart of the trial of Liberia's ex-president Charles Taylor in the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Charles Ghankay Taylor, 62, was the president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003.
He is accused of arming neighbouring Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for "blood diamonds" -- so called for being mined in rebel-held regions of Africa and sold to fund warfare.
The RUF is blamed for mutilating thousands of civilians who had their hands and arms severed in one of the most brutal wars in modern history, which claimed some 120,000 lives from 1991 to 2001.
Taylor has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers, enslavement and pillaging.
The first African leader to be tried before an international tribunal, he was arrested in Nigeria in March 2006 -- three years after he was overthrown in a rebellion.
The trial started in earnest in The Hague in January 2008 after the UN agreed that Taylor be moved from Freetown for fear that his presence in Sierra Leone could destabilise the region.
The prosecution called its 91st and final witness in January 2009. Taylor took the stand in his own defence in July last year.
In June, the court authorised the prosecution to call supermodel Naomi Campbell about an uncut diamond she allegedly received from Taylor after a dinner hosted by South African president Nelson Mandela in 1997.
The prosecution claims that Taylor wanted "to take political and physical control of Sierra Leone in order to exploit its abundant natural resources ... diamonds".
He allegedly took diamonds he had received from Sierra Leone rebels on a trip to South Africa "to sell ... or exchange them for weapons".
While there, he met Campbell at the Mandela dinner and sent men with a rough diamond to her bedroom that night, according to prosecutors.
The model's evidence would "contradict (Taylor's) testimony that he has never been in possession of rough diamonds," the prosecution says.
© 2010 AFP