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WAR CRIMES:SIERRA LEONEANS REGRET FOCUS ON NAOMI CAMPBELL TESTIMONY

By NBF News

Campbell and Charles Taylor
Sierra Leoneans expressed regret yesterday at the spotlight that has been trained on their bloody past by the courtroom appearances of model Naomi Campbell at a war crimes trial at The Hague last week.

The reactions of Sierra Leoneans is coming on the heels of reports that videos of former Liberian President Charles Taylor have been pirated. In an official statement yesterday, the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone said it is investigating pirated videos of Taylor's war crimes trial.

The Freetown-based court said in a statement that the videos were being sold in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It said the videos may have been edited to give a distorted view of the trial.

Special Court Justice Jon Kamanda said the use of court images without permission is also illegal. He said the videos' packaging suggests they were produced by the court.

Taylor is accused of trading in conflict diamonds in exchange for supporting rebels in Sierra Leone.

Prosecutors had called Campbell to testify in the trial of Taylor for war crimes relating to conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone. They said Campbell could help shed light on whether Taylor received so-called 'blood diamonds' from rebels in Sierra Leone which he used to buy weapons. Taylor denies all charges.

Some Sierra Leoneans said they are sick of the association between their country, Charles Taylor and 'blood diamonds'. 'The world should stop talking about Charles Taylor,' said labourer Abu Sesay. 'The case of Naomi Campbell means nothing to me and my family.'

Campbell told the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone she had been given 'dirty looking pebbles' after a charity dinner in South Africa in 1997, but did not know if they were diamonds from Taylor.

Her testimony, splashed across the pages of British newspapers, has since been contradicted by actress Mia Farrow, who was also at the dinner hosted by then South African president Nelson Mandela. In the capital of the former British colony in West Africa, a big-screen TV was set up publicly so residents can watch proceedings, but it has attracted few viewers.

'The Charles Taylor issue to we Sierra Leoneans is not so important any more, so bringing Naomi Campbell to the court … is not important,' said Ibrahim Jalloh, an economist and lecturer in Freetown. Lawyer Suliman Sesay said he was too busy with his own cases to pay attention to events in The Hague. 'What some of us are interested in is the outcome of the trial … but for now I do not have any interest,' he said.

'Charles Taylor and Naomi Campbell are not important to me.'