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Daughter Sentenced to 11 Years; Egypt Outlaws Mass Demonstrations; A Brutal Rape in India: One Year Later; Imagine a World

Aired December 5, 2013 - 14:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

It was a regime swept to power by two popular uprisings. But now it's moving to outlaw popular uprisings. In Egypt today, prosecutors laid their first charges under those new laws that outlaw protests against leading political activist Ahmed Maher. And crackdowns are spreading against dissent; even peaceful protests throughout Egypt.

This as a draft constitution is expected to be ratified by President Adly Mansour that will allow military trials for civilians accused of, quote, "direct attacks" on the Armed Forces.

One particular case has united even that divided country in outrage. It's the sentencing of seven underage girls and 14 young women to 11 years in prison for taking part in a Muslim Brotherhood demonstration in Alexandria.

Tonight I talk to the father of one of those jailed women. He is Alaa Eldin Ezzat and his daughter, Ola (ph), was one of the 21 young women and girls picked up by the police and sentenced to 11 years plus one month in prison.

He joined me earlier from Cairo.


AMANPOUR: Mr. Ezzat, thank you for joining me.

You have visited your girl; your wife, this very morning, has visited.

How is she today, Ola (ph)?

ALAA ELDIN EZZAT, FATHER OF JAILED PROTESTER(through translator): Ola (ph), thank God, she is very fine. And she's strong. And she sent a message, saying, "Dad, I continue what I am doing and I'm proud of it."

AMANPOUR: What has it been like as a family to see your daughter in jail, sentenced to such a stiff term for what she called and what you called peaceful protest?

EZZAT (through translator): Initially, we felt severe pain because of my daughter, Ola's situation. But I understood later on, I realized that it's not about my daughter or the family at all. It's a matter that involves all Egyptians.

Because the purpose is to instill fear in Egyptians' hearts so that they do not go out and protest and demand their rights.

AMANPOUR: How has it affected your daily life? Do you still have your jobs? Does your wife work? How does this affect your daily life?

EZZAT (through translator): Our daily life changed completely since the coup, particularly because of the media, the Egyptian media; there is a lot of campaign against those who peacefully protect.

For example, on the Egyptian TV, they say that if your neighbor belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, you have to report him to the authorities so that we arrest them.

Also, at the same time, what they say on the Egyptian TV is that any participants in peaceful demonstrations have to be stoned. And they have - - garbage have to be thrown on them along with water.

AMANPOUR: I want to go back to your daughter's situation.

Explain to me why your daughter was arrested.

EZZAT (through translator): My daughter was raised to speak her mind freely. Her biggest guilt was that she raised the Rabba sign. And that sign represents to us perseverance, a legitimacy, a freedom.

AMANPOUR: That sign is four fingers and as your daughter and others have been arrested because of that, how is she holding up in prison? How is she holding up under the trial, under the sentence, the very stiff sentence that was handed down, more than 11 years?

EZZAT (through translator): When we saw the courthouse from outside, we noticed the security forces surrounding the building as if it was a military facility. We saw the presence of security forces that was unexpected. So we expected -- when we saw that, we expected such a harsh judgment.

But what we didn't expect is that number of years.

AMANPOUR: That is such a harsh sentence. How do they feel? I mean, do they have any hope that they will be able to be released before that?

EZZAT (through translator): I don't expect her to serve 11 years in jail. I am hopeful that God will make justice win and that she will be released soon for her family.

Honestly, regarding the girls, they are in good morale. But they feel oppressed and that sense of operation has increased their persistence, because they know that they were not arrested for a criminal activity, but because of their belief in their political cause.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Alaa Eldin Ezzat, thank you very much indeed for joining me with your story.

EZZAT (through translator): You're welcome, ma'am.


AMANPOUR: Now it's clear that Egyptians do want and they do need stability. But at what cost? Can every single member of the opposition and their sympathizers be arrested and imprisoned?

And where will the country be under the new constitution, which has been drafted under the watchful eye of its military rulers? The good, the bad and the unknown. I asked Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch about Egypt's political path ahead.


AMANPOUR: Heba Morayef, welcome to the program. Thanks for joining me.


AMANPOUR: You just heard Mr. Ezzat describe the plight of his daughter and this incredibly harsh sentence.

Do you think she'll have to serve that sentence?

And what is the message with all these women, young women, some of them real minors, being given these harsh sentences?

MORAYEF: Well, I think the message is clear. The message is stop protesting. And it's a message directed at the Muslim Brotherhood. We've seen in the last four months hundreds of protesters arrested after Muslim Brotherhood protests, sometimes after clashes with the authorities, but in many, many cases, after peaceful protests.

And I think that's what's key about this case, is that these women were peacefully protesting and have been sentenced to this disproportionately high and crazy sentence.

To put it into perspective, one of the only police officers sentenced for killing protesters was given three years. So 11 years is a heavy, heavy sentence.

And I think the message there is that it doesn't matter if they're women; it doesn't matter if they're young. We will sentence protesters.

AMANPOUR: Heba, it is not just Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers or members who have been cracked down on. It's dissent in general.

Two of Egypt's most prominent human rights activists have just today been referred to trial by the prosecutor.

Is this what we're going to see in the future, even as a new constitution is approved?

MORAYEF: It's clear that over the last couple of weeks, that the Ministry of Interior has shifted its focus to all activists. In fact, they want to shut down protests. So their primary goal has been so far to shut -- to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from being able to organize.

But right now, it's clear, in particular with today's referral to trial of Ahmed Meher and Ahmed Douma, that their goal is to actually shut down on all -- on the kind of protests we saw on January 2011.

AMANPOUR: Now let's talk about the constitution. There are, on the face of it, on paper, some stronger protections against all sorts of violations, some stronger commitments to freedoms.

But is that the whole story?

What do you think of the constitution as it's been approved right now?

MORAYEF: Well, the constitution is only ever a document, right? I mean, Mubarak's constitution had some decent rights protections in it. But those protections were never really implemented because so much was left to legislation.

I think what this new draft constitution does is that it does improve on the regression we saw in the 2012 constitution that was passed under the Muslim Brotherhood. That constitution allowed language on public morality, on sharia, to override every single right in the document. And that was particularly the policy of the Salafis at the time.

So in terms of the rights protections provided in this new document, it is progress. There are better protections for women's rights; there are -- there's a direct reference to international human rights law treaties.

But of course, that doesn't really help the situation of extreme polarization that we're in, the crisis situation, the fact that they -- security forces are abusive and act with impunity.

AMANPOUR: And let me ask you about the powers that it also gives -- and certainly many in the West are quite concerned -- of the enshrining of almost total power by General al-Sisi and for a period of two presidential terms.

Tell me a little bit about what worries human rights activists and democracy activists.

MORAYEF: Well, I don't think anyone really expected to see a limitation on the military's privileges in this new document.

Of course, one thing that's forgotten is that this right was never in the '71 constitution. It was, in fact, Morsy who first put those privileges for the military in the constitution first. And that is the right of the military justice system. And at the time, that was based on an agreement, on, you know, when relations were still good between Morsy and the military.

And it's been very, very difficult at -- I mean, there's been little likelihood or little attempt to be able to reverse that.

AMANPOUR: What should the outside powers, the friends of Egypt, be doing about this? What should they be saying?

MORAYEF: Well, I think the problem is that everybody seems to have forgotten about the massacres of the summer.

And so instead of hearing language about the need for accountability to establish respect for the rule of law, for justice to form part of this, of any attempt at inclusion and negotiation, the only language that we're hearing now is language related to the road map.

And yes, the word "inclusion" does feature. But I'm not hearing specific language about the political rights of the Brotherhood; nor am I hearing anything about reining in the security services, which, to me, is the most destabilizing feature of the current situation we're in in Egypt.

In fact, you can't arrest every single Brotherhood member and you can't actually destroy the Brotherhood as an idea or as a group.

So sooner or later, the state needs to recognize that and to attempt to at least reach some kind of negotiated agreement with the Brotherhood.

AMANPOUR: Heba Morayef, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

MORAYEF: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And that photo we showed you earlier of the Ezzat sisters giving the four-finger salute in protest is also being echoed throughout Egypt, the sign and the sensitivity are so widespread that it's fast becoming the unofficial symbol of defiance and resistance to military rule.

After a break, where does good come from? Philosophers and wise grandmothers will tell you that it can only come from bad. And proof of that is in India, where something unspeakably bad, rape and murder, may be leading to more compassion and more justice in that country.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

And a look now at how a nation can actually be changed for the better after a monstrous crime.

Last December, India was shaken to its social foundations by the brutal gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old woman on a bus ride home from the movies. Waves of protests erupted nationwide over this crime, and the culture of violence against women in general in India and the authorities' failure to do anything about it.

Tonight we examine the lessons learned one year later and the work still to be done.

For the young woman's parents, the pain is still unbearable. Her mother spoke to CNN's Sumnima Udas to talk about her daughter and that fateful night.


ASHA DEVI, DELHI RAPE VICTIM'S MOTHER (through translator): She was born and brought up in Delhi. She was like any other regular girl, very sensible and intelligent, right from childhood. She was passionate about studying, wouldn't miss even a day of school, even if we asked her to.

SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): But the night of December 16th, 2012, would change everything. Moments after the young woman and her friend had boarded the bus, the five male passengers already on board dragged her to the back of the bus.

Her friend was badly beaten. She was gang-raped. The men took turns, even violating her with an iron rod, while the bus drove around the city for almost an hour.

Then they were dumped by the side of the road, left for dead.

DR. MC MISHRA, DIRECTOR, AIIMS HOSPITAL: The atrocious, unbelievable injuries, what she had sustained, we have never seen before in my almost 40-year career. I have never witnessed such a horrific brutality by human beings.

DEVI (through translator): We got a call from someone saying our daughter was injured and admitted in the hospital. We were shocked to see our daughter's state. What was in front of our eyes was hard to even imagine.

She told me they beat her badly. What could she say? Even I didn't have the courage to ask her anything, even in so much pain she would keep saying, "Don't worry. I'm doing better."

UDAS (voice-over): But she was slowly losing the fight. The injuries were so severe, some internal organs had to be removed. She died a few weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

DEVI (through translator): All of us were standing right next to her when she took her last breath. The doctors came to us and said, "Sorry. There's nothing we can do now." That's when we realized our daughter was no more.


AMANPOUR: It is a truly horrifying story and the whole documentary airs this weekend on CNN.

And you can see why it caused such a national convulsion. The four men who raped her were sentenced to hang, a clear sign that the government was taking this case seriously.

Initially skeptical, Kiran Bedi, who's India's first and highest ranking female police officer, joining me now from Delhi, tells me that this terrible crime has, in fact, started much-needed change there.


AMANPOUR: Kiran Bedi, welcome back to the program.


AMANPOUR: Have things moved since last year? Has this changed society?

BEDI: That incident of ghastly, brutal gang rape of last year, which happened on December the 16th, has actually shaken every aspect of Indian society.

It's at -- it's made the criminal justice system move, whether it's the policing, whether it's the prosecution, whether the judiciary, even the legislature, a slow legislature which was not legislating for years on tightening up the rape laws, has done it within -- by an ordinance, by the ordinance.

And then a legally illiterate country almost, because the laws are known by and large to the educated or those who have gone to a law school or somehow aware. But mass literacy has happened through media awareness because of presenting the news, debating them regularly.

So I -- and the best is the men have taken up, taken to the streets, for causes concerning women. So while women of course were walking the streets for causes, but men have joined in because it's become a common cause.

Of course, it's a beginning of a long change. But the point is it's a beginning very well made.

AMANPOUR: Well, you sound so optimistic, and it's really, really great to hear this, because it was a terrible situation, with women constantly complaining that they were never taken seriously when they even dared to report these cases.

Would you say that that has also changed, that the police are now actually taking these reports of rape and sexual assault seriously?

BEDI: That is a change. Now the cops who got alerted all got retrained or somehow briefed or got sensitized. They are responding better.

But there is a long way to go and we have a large rural policing belt (ph) as well. So therefore -- and the resources are not adequate in the rural police stations. But then there are not many women who also report there.

The fact is policing has also got galvanized, sensitized, because there's a lot of naming and shaming happening. So therefore, people are now afraid of getting named and shamed. So I think it's even shaken them up. And after all, they are also aware of what is going around the media.

So I think that media is driving the change along with people's unifying.

AMANPOUR: So you would say that quite a lot of this change has been because the media has kept a very, very strong eye on it and keeps reporting it.

BEDI: That's right. They've been analyzing and spreading a lot of awareness. Every evening, it's almost like a crime debate.

And any incident happening in any part of India, whether it's the northeast or it's the west, if the case is picked up, it is highlighted and then it is -- it is -- the questions are asked, what is the political system doing or what is the -- how is the criminal justice system responding.

So I think it's putting everybody on alert. In fact, they're all -- are all on notice. But the point only, Christiane, is that the things are still happening. While things are changing, still they are happening. So you still have a -- you have a large misogynous population which has driven -- grown up in a -- in a negative mindset.

So there is a fear and yet taking chances. So I think you -- so it's a big battle; while there's a change, there's still the past of becoming the present, which is not changing. So it's a battle.

In fact, it's still a battle between -- for women to get their human right to security, and also face the men, who refuse to change or still think women are for entertainment and it's a right to violate their bodies.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this, you talking about name and shame and horrible things still happening. One of those horrible things is the so- called euphemistically-termed two-finger test, where police used to violate girls and women complaining as a way of testing whether in fact they had been raped.

Is that still going on?

BEDI: That, too, has come under very severe criticism. I don't think that's going on because they cannot -- you know the definition of rape has expanded. That now, it has gone that minutely, that if any part of man's body, any part of man's body violates a woman's body, it is coming under the rape.

And a certain act committed by somebody who has an authority on her, like an employer or et cetera, it's coming under the term of rape.

A process of change has begun. But what has -- what is yet to happen is truly a tandem, an alignment, a partnership between the community as whereas prevention is concerned, and response as whereas the criminal justice system is concerned.

AMANPOUR: Kiran Bedi, thank you so much for joining me, so much has happened and so much still to be done. Really interesting to get your insights on this.

BEDI: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And of course as we've just seen in India, the world's largest democracy, a crusading, uncompromising press can, in fact, mobilize society, exposing crime and punishment and ultimately bringing justice.

But what about China, not a democracy, but the world's other 21st century economic juggernaut? Imagine a free press there breaking down the great wall of silence, secrecy and suppression? That's when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, "Where the press is free and every man is able to read, all is safe," so said Thomas Jefferson. And history has generally proved him right, from the 18th century pamphleteers to what we just heard about crime, accountability and punishment in India, where journalists have opened minds and indeed a whole society.

Now imagine a world where a free press tries to emerge in the largest and one of the most restrictive nations on Earth. In China, where government censors attempt to control every ounce of information, from newsprint to social media, there have been signs of hope and acts of courage.

Fiona Xiao-Mi Tan is emblematic of a new wave of Chinese journalists. Her expose of health and safety abuses of Chinese workers earned her one of this year's prestigious Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism.

Mindful the democracy and a strong economy are built on a free press, the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Beijing today, issued this challenge.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Innovation thrives where people breathe freely, speak freely, are able to challenge orthodoxy, where newspapers can report the truth without fear of consequences. I believe China will be stronger and more stable and more innovative if it respects universal human rights.


AMANPOUR: His audience of U.S. business leaders was listening. But China's leaders may have turned a deaf ear. "The New York Times" reports that China is holding up visas, visa renewals for 24 correspondents from that newspaper and also from Bloomberg, meaning that they could be forced to leave in the coming weeks.

And we can't conclude this program without honoring a photojournalist who paid the ultimate price for reporting the news.

Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili, shown here filming CNN's Arwa Damon in his native Iraq back in May, was reported killed in Syria this week. He's the first foreign journalist that we know to have been killed by jihadi fighters linked to Al Qaeda, who've infiltrated the opposition over the past couple of years.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.