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CONNECT THE WORLD
Pope Demands Action to End Clergy Sex Abuse; Abuse Survivor Wants Guilty Priests Named; U.S. Senators Investigate Moscow-Based Businessman with Ties to President Trump; ISIS Wives Fight for Chance to Return Home; Convoys of Civilians Leave Besieged ISIS Enclave; Two Saudi Sister Risk Everything to Flee Oppression; Netanyahu Strongest Opponents Join Forces Ahead of Ballot; Chicago Police Say Small Let Paid $3,500 to Stage an Attack. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired February 21, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: An historic gathering at the Vatican. The Pope summons hundreds of clerics to deal with decades of abuse. We are
live in Rome for you this hour. And we'll hear from the campaign who helped spark the award-winning film "Spotlight".
Also this hour --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why would the highest-ranking Saudi official in Hong Kong personally, allegedly,
intervene in the travel of two adult Saudi women?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: A question CNN's exclusive reporting tries to answer this hour. The latest case to come to light of Saudi women fleeing some of the most
restrictive laws in the world.
Plus, another story you will only see on CNN. A mystery American businessman in Moscow, a new figure of interest, in the investigations into
Donald Trump's ties to Russia. The details just ahead.
From our Middle East broadcasting hub here in Abu Dhabi, a very warm welcome, wherever you are in the world. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD
with me, Becky Anderson.
Confronting a hell that has long plagued the Catholic Church, in Vatican City right now, we are seeing something the world has never witnessed
before. An historic summit to try to end the scourge of clergy sexual abuse. Pope Francis has summoned 200 Church leaders from across the globe,
and he is demanding action. Real concrete steps. He says simply condemning the abuse just won't cut it anymore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE FRANCIS, HEAD OF CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): Upon our meeting, weighs a burden of pastoral and ecclesial responsibility that
compels us to discuss together in a synodal, frank and in-depth way how to tackle this evil that inflicts the Church and human kind at large.
The holy people of God are look at us. And expect of us not simple condemnation, but concrete and effective measures to put in place. We need
to be concrete.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, the people of God are looking at us, the words of Pope Francis, at the start of this historic four-day summit. CNN's Delia
Gallagher has traveled extensively with the Pope. She joins us live from Rome. In Delia, nearly every day now brings new revelations about abuse at
the heart of the Catholic Church and there is no doubt the Pope knows the Church's credibility is on the line. The problem is, he talks about
concrete action, by which the Pope means what, exactly?
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he may have answered his own question in this morning's proceedings, Becky. He handed out to all of
the bishops this, 21 reflection points, from Pope Francis. And just at a briefing a few moments ago, with some of the organizers of this meeting
including the Pope's top man for sexual abuse, we were told that when the Pope hands out reflection points, he doesn't just mean to sit around and
think about it. This is the Pope's action plan.
And in these reflections, Becky, two things that spring to my mind -- there are 21 of them. But two things, the Pope first of all, says he doesn't
want lists of accused priests published. He doesn't want them published until there is a guilty verdict. This is something that is happening
regularly in the United States, where there are lists of accused priests -- some of them have already died, some of them that are at various stages of
investigation -- published. So that's one thing that the Pope is pointing out that he is against.
Another thing which he says in these reflection points is to raise the minimum age for marriage to 16. This is because in the Catholic Church,
the current minimum age for girls for marriage is 14 years old. The Pope says he is going to change cannon law, Church law, to raise that to 16.
And I asked at this briefing, does that mean it's also a message for other countries around the world, particularly countries who allow child brides
for example. And in essence was told, yes, that these messages should not be read in a vacuum, meaning only applying to the Church. So Pope Francis
has laid out his plan.
Let me give you a sense, Becky, of what the Pope and the bishops were doing this morning. The morning opened with five testimonials from sex abuse
survivors. These were video testimonials. We did not see the videos. We received the transcripts afterwards.
[10:05:00] I just want to read to you part of one of those testimonials, they were quite harrowing. Listen to this.
I got pregnant three times. And he made me have an abortion three times. Quite simply because he did not want to use condoms or contraceptives.
Every time I refused to have sex with him, he would beat me.
This is one of the victims speaking about her priest abuser. So you can imagine, and we were told afterwards, by some of the bishops that were in
the meeting, that there is a very serious and somber tone that is being set by these survivors. Pope Francis then spoke asking for these concrete
steps. Handed out his reflection points. So at least the first morning, Becky, of this four-day summit has been very intense, those who are
participating, tell us.
ANDERSON: Yes, three days to go, we will stay on the story, thank you Delia.
These sexual abuse scandals then seem almost endless and the damage to the Church's reputation around the world perhaps irrevocable. I want to zero
in just for the moment on the United States. CNN's Rosa Flores looks at how several scandals there have rocked the Church.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days before Catholic Bishops from around the world gather in Rome to confront clergy sex abuse,
a bombshell. Theodore McCarrick, a former Cardinal and Archbishop of Washington, D.C., was defrocked by Pope Francis on Saturday, after a Church
trial found him guilty of abusing minors and adult seminarians, decades earlier. The expulsion of McCarrick, once one of the highest-ranking
Catholic officials in the U.S., marks the first time an American Cardinal has been held to account in a scandal that has dogged the Church for
More than 6700 priests in the U.S. have abused tens of thousands of children since 1950, according to bishop accountability. But only a
fraction of them have been defrocked. McCarrick's dismissal is just the latest in a wave of high-level fallouts that has rocked the Catholic Church
over the last year. In October, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, then one of the world's most powerful Catholics, resigned in the wake of a damming grand
jury report in Pennsylvania which accused him of mishandling cases of abuse. Wuerl denied the allegations. According to Bishop Accountability,
the Church has released about 100 lists with the names of an estimated 2,500 predator priests. And has shelled out more than $3.8 billion in
settlements and payouts since the 1980s.
The unprecedented discipline of McCarrick was welcomed by this man, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston. He released a statement about
McCarrick that said in part, no bishop, no matter how influential, is above the law of the Church.
Despite that hard line, he arrived in Rome amid a cloud of controversy. He is under scrutiny in two states for his mishandling of abuse claims made
against priests he once oversaw.
FLORES (on camera): Should Cardinal DiNardo represent every American Catholic in Rome?
MICHAEL NORRIS, SURVIVOR OF PRIEST ABUSE: Absolutely not.
FLORES: Survivor network, SNAP, sent Pope Francis a letter ahead of this meeting demanding that every bishop involved in coverup be fire, starting
(on camera): And what do you hope for?
NORRIS: From this meeting? I'm not hoping for much. I don't have very high expectations. How can they be part of the solution if they're part of
FLORES: CNN reached out to Cardinal DiNardo for this story. While an interview was not granted, a spokesperson sent us a statement saying that
the archdiocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement. Cardinal DiNardo is not charged with a crime. However, investigators raided his
offices in November.
BRETT LIGON, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TEXAS: I will tell you, anywhere that this investigation, and any evidence that we gain as part of
this investigation . this search warrant, or any other search warrant, if it has a material bearing on the criminal conduct, or on the punishment, is
where we will go.
FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, Rome.
ANDERSON: The priest abuse scandal was the topic of the Hollywood movie "Spotlight" which focused on a newspaper's efforts to expose the scandal.
For those of you who may not have seen it, let's just take a clip -- look at a clip from that film now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, FROM THE FILM "SPOTLIGHT": The Boston priests abused kids in six different Parishes over the last 30 years, the Church found out
about it and did nothing. This is bigger than Boston. It is the whole system.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Spotlight team, showed me it came from the top down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Phil Saviano, the survivor, and whistle blower, who worked with the team at the "Boston Globe" that blew the lid off the clergy abuse
scandal and he joins us now live from Rome.
[10:10:00] Just how important is this summit, and is the fact that you and others are, have been invited and are attending?
PHIL SAVIANO, CLERGY ABUSE SURVIVOR AND ACTIVISTS: Hello, Becky. I think it's immensely important. It would have been better had they held the
summit maybe 10, 15 years ago. But I'm looking forward, not back. And I think -- I think the fact that they're doing it, the fact that they've
reached out to survivors like myself -- I was one of the members of the meeting with the organizers yesterday -- I'm taking this as positive steps,
and reason for cautious optimism.
ANDERSON: Well, Phil, let me just read to our viewers a letter that you yourself wrote to the organizers. In it, you call for the Vatican to
release the guilty priests' names, and you urged them to do it to launch your new era of transparency, you say. Do it, to break the code of
silence. Do it, you say, out of respect for the victims of these men, and do it to help prevent these creeps from abusing any more children. Is that
going to happen?
SAVIANO: Well, I was surprised, pleasantly, when Archbishop Scicluna pulled me aside after the meeting and said, you know what, that was a good
letter and I have to agree with you that we have to stop this secrecy and that these names should be released. So I don't know that it's going to
happen. You know, he can't do it himself. He has to convince the Pope. And the Pope has to convince the other Cardinals that he works with. But I
do believe it is going to be discussed. And just that is a step in the right direction, and I think that is something that has not happened
ANDERSON: We do know that the Pope, in his reflection notes -- I say, I'll call it the beginning of the summit -- he said, he doesn't want a list of
names released. He doesn't want naming and shaming of those who have been alleged. So look, we'll see where that goes. But it was important that we
show this. Go on.
SAVIANO: I was just going to say, I think that maybe the Pope was referring to the list of names in the United States that are being released
by the diocese, but what I'm talking about is the names of priests that have been sent to the Vatican and investigated, and those allegations have
been affirmed at this point.
ANDERSON: Sure. No, you are making a very good point and I think you're absolutely correct. So there is some clarification there. Phil, I want to
play for our viewers an interview we did with Marie Collins. She's a former member of the Vatican's Child Protection Commission and a survivor
of abuse herself. This is her take on whether she believes there is a will to act within the Church on sexual abuse. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE COLLINS, FORMER VATICAN CHILD PROTECTION COMMISSION: I worked on the commission for three years, and it became very obvious to me that there
were people in the Vatican at the head of the Church, the top in the Church, who had no will to change, to do anything which would prevent these
appalling, appalling things happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: So that is quite remarkable. You sound more optimistic. When the Church talks about concrete action -- certainly the Pope himself talks
about concrete action -- what do you hope will be achieved at the end of this?
SAVIANO: Well, let me first make a point that I wasn't on that commission, but I see that in the United States, the Church is really in a tailspin.
Catholics are bailing out. They're pulling their children out of parochial schools. And one of the other major changes in the United States is that
now legal authorities are going after the bishops. We have, at this point, 14 attorneys general, across the United States, that have subpoenaed the
bishops and are looking into files and trying to get to the bottom of this. And if that kind of behavior or that kind of action spreads, I think that
the Vatican is really going to be facing some serious difficulties.
And I think that may be one of the reasons why they are about to reconsider some of these things that we've been calling for, for many, many years.
Like releasing the names, or like having some sort of accountability, or consequences for bishops who covered up these crimes, and enabled so many
priests, just to be moved from one Parish, or from one state to the other, and always continuing to molest children.
So you know, when the law enforcement officials get involved.
[10:15:00] We've heard that in the state of -- in the country of New Zealand, they've just formed a national commission to look into this
problem. There was a national commission in Australia. That's the sort of tide that is turning, and I think that the Vatican is -- it seems to me is
they need to pay attention to that, and I believe that they are.
ANDERSON: Phil Saviano is at the Rome bureau tonight, thank you very much indeed for joining us. And this summit as we say, is kicking off today.
It is a four-day summit in Vatican City.
Well the Archbishop of Chicago is one of the leaders at the Vatican right now. Before the summit, he spoke to my colleague Christiane Amanpour and
took a measured tone about what can be achieved he believes at the gathering. Have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARDINAL BLAISE J. CUPICH, ARCHBISHOP OF CHICAGO: The Holy Father in remarking, making those remarks, wanted to make sure that the proper focus
is on the two objectives that he has set forward. Namely to build that kind of awareness, so that the bishops throughout the world claim ownership
for this issue. And secondly, that we put together a framework that will make clear to them what are the concrete steps for keeping children safe,
for handling abuse cases, but also that they fully understand how they're going to be held accountable. Those are significant outcomes that we are
anticipating with this meeting that's going to take place.
But he's right. To think that there will not be any more abuse of children in the Church is unrealistic. We do our best. We know that it is a social
problem throughout the world, but this is a significant step forward for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: You can catch that full interview on "AMANPOUR" at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. in Rome. And you can work out what time wherever you
are watching in the world.
To big news about an investigation that has dogged Donald Trump's presidency right from the start. Sources tell CNN Special Counsel Robert
Mueller is finishing up and could submit his report on the Trump campaign's ties to Russia as early as next week.
The question now is, what will the Justice Department do with that report? Multiple Congressional investigations are still going strong meantime. One
now focusing on a Moscow-based American businessman, with long-time ties to Mr. Trump. CNN's Nina dos Santos has exclusive reporting on that part of
the story. We are also joined by CNN White House reporter and regular on this show, Stephen Collinson. And let's start with you, Stephen. Talk
that this Mueller report will be delivered any day now. We have no idea what it's going to say. Will we ever see it, is the question?
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: There's going to be an almighty battle between the Congress involving the courts, the Justice
Department, and the administration, to answer that question. Mueller by regulations has to produce a report explaining why he prosecuted some
people and why he did not prosecute others. What we do not know is whether he will include information in that report that is critical of Donald
Trump, that finds wrong doing with Donald Trump. Whether in the issue of the alleged coordination with the Russians in the campaign, or whether the
President obstructed justice to tidy that up.
Then Attorney General William Barr is expected to produce his own reports, based on the Mueller report, to Congress. And that's where the legal
issues happen. We are going to get Democrats demanding more. They are going to potentially subpoena to try and get the full report from Mueller,
and the evidence that backs it up. So we may learn that the report is filed next week. It's very unlikely we're going to find out what's in it,
ANDERSON: Right. OK. Meantime, Nina, multiple Congressional investigations still going strong. What have you got about this new
character that one of those commissions wants to interview?
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. We're talking about a 58-year-old American citizen, who also, since 2014, has had a
Russian passport. David Geovanis, who's a well-known U.S. business person and fixer in Moscow, has been in Moscow since the early 1990s.
And he's worked for key Russian oligarchs. Like for instance, Oleg Deripaska, the sanctioned Russian metals and magnet, who has been a key
figure in the investigation. And he's also worked for a number of Trump donors and has recently been re-employed by one of those donors to Trump's
It seems as though Senate investigators for the last year have been trying repeatedly to enter into contact with David Geovanis. They originally
wrote to him -- according to sources of mine, back in the spring of last year.
[10:20:00] And they haven't managed to coax him back to the United States to find out exactly what he knows.
But it is this meeting that you are seeing pictures of here, that surfaced on the internet, a couple of weeks ago, in Russia, that seems to show
Donald Trump alongside two real estate moguls, Howard Lorber and Bennett LeBow meeting with Russian officials in 1996, exploring initial talks to
build a Trump Tower in Moscow. These meetings apparently were accompanied by David Geovanis who is also in that film there. And this is the type of
meeting that investigators would like to talk to this individual about.
Now, because they haven't managed to speak to him since he hasn't been back to America since early 2017, when Donald Trump entered office, they have
had to rely on witness statements. And one of the witness statements that I've seen specifically mentions this individual name in conjunction with
the suggestion that he may be able to provide key information to solve that mystery, as to whether or not the Russians do have personally embarrassing
material on the U.S. President or not. Now, I spoke with David Geovanis, Becky, to do my due diligence, as recently as yesterday evening and he
staunchly declined to comment on the subject.
ANDERSON: Nina is in London, Stephen in Washington with what are these multiple legs on a story that has dominated headlines now for what, more
than two years.
Coming up, on CONNECT THE WORLD -- thanks, guys -- no way back home. The U.S. and U.K. refuse to allow two so-called ISIS brides back into their
respective countries. One has their citizenship revoked. While the U.S. says the other was never a citizen in the first place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: As a teenager, we experienced family violence and abuse. And we wanted to run away of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
The horrifying tale of two Saudi sisters, whose country they say is capable of kidnapping them if they returned home. We can bring you that exclusive
ANDERSON: Two young women who aligned themselves with ISIS now say they want to go home. But the countries they came from don't want them back.
[10:25:00] After the British government decided to revoke the citizenship of Shamima Begum who left London at the age of 15 to join the caliphate.
The U.S. seems to have follow suit. Hoda Muthana left Alabama to join ISIS. Now she wants to return to the U.S. But Secretary of State Pompeo
says she is not a U.S. citizen and cannot return to the country. Her parents disagree with what the Secretary of State has said specifically.
Jomana Karadsheh tracking both these stories. She is in Istanbul this hour. Let's start in the U.S. and the rationale given by the Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo. There's a lot of emotion. And people all over the world have their own views about what should happen to these women. What
is the U.S. saying specifically at this point?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, as you know, Hoda Muthana, 24 years old now. She left Alabama as a college student from
Alabama. She was 19 then and since then she has married three ISIS fighters and she has had one son, an 18-month-old baby.
And of course, she is one of the higher profile women who joined the so- called caliphate. She took to social media in the early days after she joined in 2014, calling for attacks on Americans. And now, after she was
found in this camp in northeastern Syria, speaking to the media there, she's expressing remorse, regret, describing her actions in the past as
foolish and naive and saying she was angry at the time, and she wants to go back home.
But as you mentioned, the United States is saying she's not welcome. We heard President Trump yesterday saying that he's instructed Secretary
Pompeo not to admit her back into the United States. And also, the Secretary of State addressing this, in an interview earlier today, with
NBC's "Today" show. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: She is a terrorist. She's not a U.S. citizen. She ought not return to this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So she wasn't born here?
POMPEO: She may have been born here. She is not a U.S. citizen, nor is she entitled to U.S. citizenship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that because she was the daughter of a diplomat, and she was born here?
POMPEO: That's right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARADSHEH: So basically, Becky, the State Department is saying that the basis, the reason for them not allowing her back, saying she is not a U.S.
citizen, that she does not have legal -- the legal ability to go back into the United States. Because she is not a citizen, and she does not have a
visa, and is using that idea that she was the daughter of a Yemeni diplomat, born in the United States. Which means she was not entitled to
U.S. citizenship, but her family is disputing this. They're saying her father had stepped down from his position a few months before she was born.
The family representative is putting forward her birth certificate as proof. And now the family says that they are planning to file a lawsuit to
dispute the U.S. government's assertions about her citizenship -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Jomana is in Istanbul, in Turkey, for you this evening. Thank you.
Well, meantime, the crisis deepening for the youngest kids from ISIS affiliated territories. Save the Children, tonight, claiming over two and
a half thousand children face life-threatening risks in refugee camps. The charity calling on countries of origin to repatriate these children and
their families. This, as U.S.-backed militia are fighting to snuff out ISIS resistance in its last holdout in Eastern Syria. CNN's Ben Wedeman on
the front line with you, where forces are preparing for a final assault.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the latest batch of civilians to come out of that half mile square part of Baghouz al-
Fawgani that still contains civilian and ISIS fighters. It seems that some sort of arrangement has been worked out between the Syrian Democratic
Forces and the ISIS forces still inside that town.
(voice-over): We counted 17 trailer trucks in all with mostly women and children. Those we could see were silent. The convoy included some men as
well. A commander with the SDF told us more than 20 wounded ISIS fighters were on board.
David Eubanks runs a group called the Burma Free Rangers which has been providing medical aid to people in war zones in Iraq and Syria. They've
been here for three weeks.
DAVID EUBANKS, FREE BURMA RANGERS: Well in the time we've been here, we've seen 5,000 people. 5,040 total count, 40 people yesterday morning. Pretty
much most of them, women and kids, with some men. I'd estimate maybe 500 men among that 5,000 and broken. I felt broken in spirit. I'm not sure
what you saw, you know.
[10:30:00] But I felt like scared, terrified, like yesterday morning, they were like, they stopped, holding their babies, looked at us.
WEDEMAN: Monday, we were able to peer inside ISIS's last dot of territory. And saw people calmly walking around in the open. Yet SDF commanders
insist there is no truce.
(on camera): What's not clear is what happens next. If this is the bulk of civilians who are left in that square mile area in Baghouz al-Fawgani,
it means perhaps that only fighters, ISIS fighters are left. And we have been told by an official with the Syrian Democratic Forces that once the
civilians have been cleared out, the SDF is going to go in his words to clean it up. I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, on the hills overlooking Baghouz al-
ANDERSON: Connecting your world, tonight from Abu Dhabi.
Coming up, a CNN exclusive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: He said, now there is someone from the Saudi consulate --
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Will come to explain.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: And, you know, at that time we start to panic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: The story of two sisters who tried to escape their lives at home only to find the Saudi state hot on their heels. That, after this.
ANDERSON: Well a story you will only find here on CNN and one that has echoes of another high-profile case from a few weeks ago. Remember, Rahaf
Mohammed, a young Saudi woman who was granted asylum in Canada, after a legal tussle in Thailand, that turned into an international incident.
[10:35:00] Well she said at the time that she was fleeing an abusive family after renouncing Islam, which is illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Well, now, CNN can reveal that two Saudi sisters are in legal limbo in Hong Kong, accusing high-ranking Saudi officials of attempted kidnapping after
they, too, fled their family. They told their story to CNN's Ivan Watson for the first time, in this exclusive report, that was months in the
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was supposed to be a family beach vacation. Instead, it is proof two sisters
say of the life they lived under oppression.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Every day, it was like a nightmare.
WATSON: This holiday in Sri Lanka last September was also the scene of their dramatic attempt to escape from their family. Rawan and Reem -- not
their real names -- are 18 and 20-year-old sisters from Saudi Arabia. For their security, they've asked us not to show their faces.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Since we were teenagers, we experienced family violence, and abuse. And we wanted to run away of this.
WATSON (on camera): Who was committing the violence in the family?
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Father and the brothers.
WATSON (voice-over): Under Saudi Arabia's male guardianship system, women have fewer legal rights than men. Forced to cover up, and unable to travel
or even apply for a passport without a husband, father, or brother's permission. Years ago, these sisters secretly renounced Islam, a crime
punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. And they began plotting their escape. On the family holiday in Sri Lanka, they saw their chance, but first, they
had to get their passports from their parents.
(on camera): You snuck into your parent's room?
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Yes.
WATSON: While they were sleeping?
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Yes. So I just --
WATSON: To get your passports?
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Yes.
WATSON (voice-over): In the middle of the night, they fled to a waiting taxi, and took off the long black abayas they were forced to wear from the
age of 11.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: For the first time.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Yes, without abaya.
WATSON (on camera): And you're smiling right now.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: Very, very exciting.
WATSON (voice-over): At Columbo airport, they bought tickets and received boarding passes for SriLankan Airlines to Hong Kong and then Cathay
Pacific Airways to Melbourne Australia. Where they'd already arranged online tourist visas. But when they landed at Hong Kong International
Airport, the station manager of SriLankan Airlines and a representative of Jardine Aviation Services Group met them at the gate and asked them for
their boarding passes.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: I showed it to him and he grabbed it. We were asking, what's going on? Why are you walking fast? And they said the
plane, maybe you can't catch it.
WATSON: As they walked through the airport, they were led to the desk of Emirates Airlines and the story changed.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: He said, now, there's someone from the Saudi consulate. And you know, at that time, we just started to panic.
WATSON: SriLankan Airlines sent CNN this detailed account. It alleges that this man, Abdullah Hussein al-Sharif ,the vice counsel of the Saudi
consulate in Hong Kong, came to the airport and asked the airline to change the sisters' itinerary.
The Saudi consular officials had informed SriLankan Airlines staff that the passenger's mother was terminally ill and the passengers were therefore
required to return to Riyadh immediately. SriLankan Airlines tells CNN, Saudi officials canceled the sisters' tickets to Austria and requested new
boarding passes to take them to Dubai and then Saudi Arabia.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: When we screamed in his face saying, return my passport. You have no right to take it. You crossed the line. We will
tell the police, he's -- he's scared. And then he took our passport and literally ran away.
WATSON (on camera): In the airport.
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: In the airport.
WATSON (voice-over): This isn't the first time Saudi government officials have tried to stop women from fleeing. In Thailand last month, 18-year-old
Rahaf al-Qunun, barricaded herself in a hotel room and took to the internet begging for help to prevent deportation back to Saudi Arabia. And Dina Ali
Lasloom, was filmed by passengers in Manila Airport in 2017, being forced by male relatives, on a flight back to Saudi Arabia. Activists haven't
heard from her since.
Back in Hong Kong, the sisters accuse the Saudi Vice Consul, Abdullah al- Sharif of intervening in their interrupt to board a later Qantas flight to Australia. Eventually prompting an Australian official to cancel their
visas. Australia's Department of Home Affairs refused to tell us why the visas were cancelled. Saying it does not comment on individual cases. The
sisters have been stranded in the city ever since.
[10:40:00] WATSON (on camera): Do you think these sisters are in danger here in Hong Kong?
MICHAEL VIDLER, HUMAN RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Yes, I do.
WATSON (voice-over): Human rights attorney Michael Vidler filed a criminal complaint on behalf of the sisters.
VIDLER: We allege that they were the subject of an attempted kidnapping at Hong Kong International Airport in a restricted area. We allege that they
obtained their documents by deceit. They then used their documents unlawfully to cancel their boarding passes.
WATSON: Vidler says his team have screened airport security camera footage, showing this man, Saudi Consul General in Hong Kong Omar al-
Bunayan, shown here at the airport in happier times. The lawyer says the diplomat was filmed holding the sister's passports and boarding passes at
the airport on September 6th.
(on camera): A big question here, why would the highest-ranking Saudi official in Hong Kong personally, allegedly, intervene in the travel of two
adult Saudi women? CNN reached out multiple times to the foreign ministry in Riyadh and the consulate here in Hong Kong and got no answer at all.
(voice-over): But Hong Kong police tell CNN they are now officially investigating what happened in the airport on that day. SriLankan Airlines
and Jardine Aviation Services Group both deny any wrongdoing. Saying they did not pressure the sisters into changing their flights.
As for the sisters, they are still living in hiding in Hong Kong, hoping to receive political asylum. They have a defiant message for their family
UNIDENTIFIED SAUDI WOMAN: I want to be a successful woman, and to give them that message with my sister, that they can't break me.
WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.
ANDERSON: And CNN continues to offer Saudi Arabia the opportunity to comment on this story. In the meantime, more exclusive content, and
granular detail, the girls describe what it means to live under male guardianship, even as the kingdom lifts some policies such as the driving
ban that restricts women. And a look at the broader context of a Saudi Arabia under scrutiny, after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
That all at CNN.com. Do check that out.
Well, with just six weeks to go, before the April elections in Israel, two of the strongest challenges to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining
forces Thursday, in a bid to defeat him. The two centrist candidates agree to share the Prime Minister's post, if their party takes power. Now for
his part, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu has put together a merger, of far right and extreme right parties, to try to shore up votes. CNN's Oren Liebermann
is in Jerusalem joining us now live -- Oren.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Becky, these mergers are important for two reasons. That first merger between the centrist parties is because
they simply want to have the biggest party. It is influential in having the ability to form a government. But just as important is the merger of
smaller parties, and there, the magic number is 3.25 percent. If you don't bring in that percentage of the vote, your votes go to waste. You're not
in the Knesset. So what Benjamin Netanyahu did was he brought together three very small parties that weren't going to hit the magic number to make
sure he has those right-wing votes in his coalition. The problem, one of those is an extremist right-wing group.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): In 1984, extremist rabbi, Meir Kahane, spoke to an audience of none in Israel's Knesset. He was boycotted in Parliament.
Then his party was banned from politics. His anti-Arab positions deemed racist and undemocratic.
MEIR KAHANE, ULTRA-NATIONALIST POLITICIAN: The Palestinian people is our enemy. If Arabs don't want to be killed, fine, I don't want them to be
killed either, I want them out of this country.
LIEBERMANN: In 1997, his Jach party was ruled a terror organization by the United States.
Kahane was assassinated in 1990 by an Arab gunman but his ideas never died. His most ardent followers known as Kahanist started their own party,
Habayit Hayehudi, Jewish strength. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has courted this extreme right party as he seeks a fifth term in office, urging
them to join with other right-wing parties to ensure they get enough votes to enter the Knesset. Members of the party celebrate Kahane, without
specifically naming Palestinians. Their party platform calls for removing enemies from the country reminiscent of this line from Kahane.
KAHANE: If for the minister of defense there wouldn't be one Arab left here. There wouldn't be one Arab left here.
LIEBERMANN: The Jewish Strength Party did not respond to requests for an interview.
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Arab Joint List Party, tweeted simply, Kahane has returned.
The opposition lawmaker, Tamar Zandberg, calls it terrifying that Netanyahu is embracing Kahane's follows.
[10:45:00] TAMAR ZANDBERG, HEAD OF MERETZ: Now Netanyahu himself is the one matching between the Knesset and between the successors of Kahane that
was declared as a terror organization.
LIEBERMANN: Could Netanyahu's embrace of the extreme right-wing party have an impact beyond Israel's borders? Top American Jewish leader, Malcolm
Hoenlein, says the bond between American and Israeli Jewish is above politics. Hoenlein knew the Brooklyn-born Kahane and says the Jewish
Strength Party has toned down that ideology.
MALCOLM HOENLEIN, JEWISH-AMERICAN LEADER: I think they have toned down a lost the language that they use and some of the policies that they used to
have. And they have merged into a party that has participated in the government before, so I think that there are buffers there.
LIEBERMANN: Netanyahu has boasted his current government is solidly right- wing. With the addition of the Jewish Strength Party, it would take an even sharper turn to the right. Netanyahu has portrayed the possibility of
a left-wing government as a great threat to Israel, instead of a party rooted in extremist ideology.
LIEBERMANN: There are two more x-factors here, Becky, that are worth talking about quickly. One of those is the possibility that some of these
smaller parties -- and there are some on the right and left -- missed that electoral threshold and don't make the Knesset and could have a big impact
on who the next Prime Minister is and, of course, the criminal investigations that began two years ago against the Prime Minister, the
Attorney General is expected to make a statement soon on whether he intends to indict the Prime Minister. That could also have an enormous impact on
the political landscape here.
ANDERSON: Absolutely. Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem for you, I'm in Abu Dhabi, I'm in CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks, Oren.
Coming up, from victim to suspect, we have the latest twist in what has been a bizarre story involving actor Jussie Smollett and his alleged
attack. That, after this.
ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. This is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you. Welcome back. Just before 10 to 8:00 in the UAE.
To a stunning twist now in the case of an American actor who claims he was the victim of a hate crime. Police in Chicago now say Jussie Smollett
orchestrated his own attack, accusing him of, quote, taking advantage of the pain and anger of racism to try to follow his -- further his career.
Smollett is now under arrest, accused of filing a false police report. The "Empire" actor says he was attacked last month by two men shouting racist
and homophobic slurs. But listen to what a police superintendent said just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHICAGO POLICE: Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago's reputation through the mud in the process. And why? This stunt
was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, Sara Sidner outside the police station in Chicago with the very latest from what was that news conference, by the Chicago police.
Remarkable stuff here -- Sara.
[10:50:00] SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. That was an epic takedown, if you will. It went on for quite some time, you could
hear the anger in the Chicago police superintendent's voice. He heads up this department. They have been -- they have been talked about in so many
different ways and criticized for some of the way that they have treated folks here in the city. But this was them saying this person, this actor,
Jussie Smollett, who is one of the stars of the show "Empire", took advantage of not only the police resources but the city that he -- it was a
slap in the face to the city what he did. And the public at large, who -- and victims of hate crime.
They said look, we have been treating him up until the 47th hour, as a victim. But in the 48th hour when they heard from these two brothers --
who are Nigerian Americans -- who told them, look, this was all planned. We were paid. This was something that he wanted us to do. We were not,
you know, we did not know it was going to end up like this. They gave them lots of details. And these two brothers making very clear that they have
told police everything that they know and they've been able to corroborate some of the information that they have told police as well.
Police for the first time though, we should note, giving you an idea of why Jussie Smollett may have done this. And they say it was because he was
unhappy with his salary as an actor on "Empire". That is a piece of information that we had not heard up until this press conference today.
But you can hear the anger in the police superintendent's voice. He said that all of this makes Chicago look bad, and he wants an apology from
ANDERSON: Yes, I think I read a little earlier on that something like a thousand-man hours have gone into this case and I think the police
superintendent there also extremely angry about the waste of time ultimately that this case, these police have endured. Sara, thank you as
Coming up, a barber in Vietnam looking to drum up some business in advance of what is a U.S./North Korea Summit. How? We'll tell you after this.
ANDERSON: Well, people have been poking fun at unusual hair styles of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un for some time. Well, now, as the two leaders
get ready for a second summit next week in Vietnam, some people there, letting the haircuts go to their heads. Your "Parting Shots" this evening,
by Michael Holmes.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Hanoi barber is offering free haircuts in advance of the upcoming summit between
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But there is a catch. Remind you of anyone? Let's call them fashion forward. The
cuts on offer reproduced the distinctive hair styles of the two world leaders. Remind you of anyone?
[10:55:00] LE TUAN DUONG, SALON OWNER (through translator): Let's call them fashion forward. The cuts on offer reproduce the distinctive hair
styles of the two world leaders.
GIA HUY SALON CUSTOMER (through translator): I was doing this only for fun. But I was surprised how many people have responded. I'm very happy.
HOLMES: This 9-year-old Vietnamese boy says he's pleased with the likeness.
HUY (through translator): I'm happy with this haircut because people will think I look like the North Korean leader.
HOLMES: But the award for bravery has to go to this slightly more mature customer, who's gone all-in on the signature Trump hair color.
LE PHUC HAI, SALON CUSTOMER (through translator): I'm not worried because after this promotional campaign is over, the owner said he would make my
hair go back to normal again. Donald Trump's haircut looks great and it suits my age.
HOLMES: Of course, the free haircut promotion is all in good fun. Hopefully, there won't be a repeat of a 2014 incident, when North Korean
embassy officials complained to a barber in London who had used the phrase, bad hair day, under a photo of Kim Jong-un in an attempt to drum up
business. Michael Holmes, CNN, Atlanta.
I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD. From the team here, it's a very good evening.