May 3, 2010 — -- Naomi Campbell told Oprah Winfrey today that she fears for the safety of her family and that is why she has refused to cooperate with prosecutors who are trying a former African dictator for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Prosecutors allege that Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, gave Campbell a blood diamond, the kind of gem Taylor is accused of using to buy guns for rebel groups in neighboring Sierra Leone who terrorized civilians and killed and maimed tens of thousands.
"I don't want to be involved in this man's case—he has done some terrible things and I don't want to put my family in danger," Campbell told Oprah and her millions of viewers during an episode of the talk show that will air Monday.
Oprah was attempting to ask Campbell about a dinner in South Africa that was attended by Mia Farrow, Campbell, other celebrities and then-South African president Nelson Mandela. Charles Taylor was also present just before the dinner. According to Farrow, Campbell told her the morning after the dinner that Taylor had sent some of his men to her room in the night to present her with a large uncut diamond.
Campbell told Oprah that she was a guest of Mandela at his home at the time of the September 1997 dinner, and that Charles Taylor had shown up unexpectedly.
"He wasn't invited," said Campbell. "He wasn't part of our group, but he did show up. We understood that after it was explained to us."
At New York Fashion Week in February, Campbell denied receiving a diamond from Taylor when asked about it by ABC News.
"I didn't receive a diamond and I'm not going to speak about that, thank you very much. And I'm not here for that," said Campbell.
She stormed out of the interview, slapping a producer's camera.
Campbell claimed to Oprah that there was "a sound effect" added to the ABC News reports on the incident.
ABC News did not add any sound effects to the ABC News reports on the alleged blood diamond gift, which aired April 22 on both World News and Nightline.
Taylor has been on trial for almost three years at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The U.N. war crimes trial is being held in the Netherlands.
Campbell has declined to provide testimony to prosecutors at the trial. Prosecutors say Taylor was in South Africa in September 1997 to buy weapons for the Sierra Leone rebels with blood diamonds and that Mia Farrow's statment helps tie him to the purchase.
"The very next month, in October 1997, prosecutors say a big shipment of weapons landed in Sierra Leone that they allege Taylor bought with blood diamonds when he went to South Africa, " said Open Society Justice Initiative Legal Officer Tracey Gurd. "The diamonds do come to the heart of the case."
Experts say that Campbell's remarks on Oprah preserve the cloud of mystery around the blood diamond.
"If she did testify to receiving a diamond, that could certainly bolster the prosecution's case," said Gurd.
In her first interview on the subject, Mia Farrow told ABC News that she remembered Campbell telling her the diamond was "huge."
The warfare in Sierra Leone, where diamonds were used by African rebels and allegedly by Taylor to raise money for a bloody rampge from 1997 to 2001, killed or maimed tens of thousands. Taylor's lawyers have argued there is scant direct evidence that connects Taylor to the diamonds or the atrocities.
"The issue here is not whether such atrocities were indeed committed but who was responsible and specifically was Charles Taylor the person responsible," Courtenay Griffiths, Taylor's lead counsel, told ABC News.
Taylor has angrily denied dealing in blood diamonds.When pressed on the stand in November by Chief Prosecutor Brenda Hollis about whether he sent his men to give a diamond to Campbell, Taylor called the allegation "total nonsense."