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Sri Lankans Fear for More Possible Attacks; Cyclone Kenneth Slams Mozambique; North Korea Presents Warmbier's Bill to U.S.; Joe Biden Campaigns Targeting President Trump; Sri Lanka Police, 70 Arrested, More Suspects Sought; Cyclone Kenneth Hit Mozambique; North Korea Billed U.S. $2 Million For Warmbier's Case; French President Promises Tax Cuts After Months Of Unrest; Yellow Vest Protests; Many Of The Men Executed In Saudi Said They Were Tortured; A Saudi Woman Drives For Freedom; China's Plan To Build The Silk Road; Prince William Comforts Victims Of Mosque Attacks; Double 07 Returns. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired April 26, 2019 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[03:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR: New warnings in Sri Lanka. Police now fear more suspects are on the run in the Sunday Easter bombings.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Cyclone Kenneth slams into Mozambique. Thousands head for shelters as the storm is now the strongest ever to make landfall there.
HOWELL: And that in the driver seat a Saudi woman who once went to jail for driving in Saudi Arabia in now steering a car around the United States talking to CNN about her nearly 5,000-kilometer journey in America.
Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to viewers all over the world. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN Newsroom.
We begin in Sri Lanka. The prime minister warning that Sunday's deadly bombings may not be the last in his country. At least 70 people are in police custody suspected of helping the suicide bombers who targeted churches and hotels. And the prime minister says slippers cells could be activated to launch more attacks.
HOWELL: The government has lowered the death toll from 359 to 253. They say many of the victims' bodies were severely damaged. A police source says investigators found bomb making designs and materials at a house they raided south of the capital city.
Following the story CNN's Nikhil Kumar is live in Colombo this hour. And Nikhil, just to get a sense here, the security lapse that has certainly offered some sense that this could have been prevented. What are you hearing from authorities about how that happened and what could happen next here? NIKHIL KUMAR, CNN NEW DELHI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, George, the picture
here is unclear -- sorry, as to how exactly such important information such specific information. We know that India warned Sri Lanka thrice, on the 4th of April, on the Saturday before the attacks and one hour before the bombings. One hour before the first bomb went off.
With specific info about churches and hotels as being possible targets, how it falls with the cracks. What the prime minister has said that he didn't know, the president has said that he didn't know so everyone seems to be washing their hands off it.
The defense secretary has resigned after being ask to do so by the president of the country and changes have been promised in the security apparatus here. But the whole issue has angered people here because even as they tried to come to terms with what is, even after the lowering of the number still a very, very high death toll.
Still as people try to come to terms with that, they are getting increasingly angry and asking why did this happen.
Our Ivan Watson spoke to the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe about this issue. This is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANIL WICKREMESINGHE, SRI LANKAN PRIME MINISTER: What we do now and what we can do now is to pin this whole group which is a small one and ensure that it doesn't start against.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Does the responsibility lie with you or the president?
WICKREMESINGHE: Well, as a government the security system failed. That's all that I can say. I don't want to talk about my role in it.
WATSON: What do you say to somebody whose entire family has been destroyed?
WICKREMESINGHE: There are no words for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KUMAR: So, as you can see, George, you know, the security system failed. There was information out there, specific information. The prime minister in the same interview told CNN that some of the bombers were under surveillance as suspects but they didn't move and they didn't move to arrest them because they didn't have enough evidence.
All of this information really troubling and really angering people here. Because people here are saying well, look, we stepped out of a vicious civil war which lasted almost three decades. That's when we had curfews, that's when we had terror threats. Why do we have this now is the government knew so much before time. Georg? HOWELL: Nikhil, even with the possibility, authorities say that there
could more attacks. Certainly, they're still looking for suspects. And on this Friday with regards to Friday prayer authorities are telling many people to stay home, rather, participate at home.
KUMAR: That's right, they are. Authorities are telling people to stay at home. I'm in fact, in front of a mosque which is right behind me, a major Salafi shrine in the center of Colombo where the mosque authorities decided to go ahead with Friday's prayers but very few people have showed up.
[03:04:52] And this, of course, comes after that call from Sri Lankan authorities, government authorities yesterday that people should avoid Friday prayers because of the concern that such gatherings could be targeted by the terrorists who are still out there.
So, it is still a very tense situation and as communities like the Christian community mourn and communities with them sort of live in this changed reality in this country.
Over the last decade, people have been getting used to normalcy and peace and now they've been thrust back into this world where individuals are being stopped on street corners and frisked like car before they enter hotels on the public areas are being stopped and their boots being checked and so on.
They've been thrust back into this reality and they are really struggling with why because of the lapsed we talk about. Even as they try and deal with the continuing threat which is still out there. George?
HOWELL: Nikhil Kumar following the story live Colombo, Sri Lanka. Thank you, Nikhil.
ALLEN: Another story we are following closely is in Mozambique. Most of the northern region is being bothered by the strongest cyclone to ever hit the country.
HOWELL: We're talking about Cyclone Kenneth you see it here making landfall on Thursday. It's reportedly uprooted trees, destroyed boats and left some areas in darkness. The Red Cross says it's especially concerned about the storms impact because it comes on the heels of the other devastating cyclone that came through there. Idai.
ALLEN: Yes. CNN's Eleni Giokos is following this story. She is live for us in Johannesburg in neighboring South Africa. And it's not looking good what this storm may be doing to Mozambique right now.
ELENI GIOKOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Natalie. Exactly. I mean, what we've actually seen is because of the second cyclone hitting the country in just a few weeks, everyone sitting and waiting for destruction.
But we've spoken to few witnesses on the ground specifically in Pemba which is the coastal city in the capital Cabo province which of course is not as densely populated as the rest of the country but Pemba is a very densely populated city with all the economic activity occurs in that province.
We spoke to one hotel manager saying that there has been no destruction as of yet, that things are pretty calm right now. But overnight they saw heavy rainfall and strong winds but things are calm.
Another eyewitness also talking about trees that have fallen, and of course that causing a bit of destruction as well, but no structural problems right now from what they can see at the moment in Pemba, which of course is interesting, because a lot of people are saying that it's not as bad as people had anticipated or had feared.
Important to note, as the cyclone does pass through, which of course, it's a slow-moving cyclone, it's going to bring heavy rains with it. Double the amount that we saw with Cyclone Idai, which of course is going to create a bit of worry, specifically in the northern parts of the country where it isn't as densely populated.
But we're talking about remote villages here. We're talking about villages that are connected with roads that are not paved. And of course, those roads with heavy rainfall it's going to make it very difficult for people to get goods into that region specifically to help out after the storm actually passed through.
The next 24 hours are going to be really important. But also, something to note, that as a cyclone pass through and went into northern Mozambique it caused a devastation and destruction in the Comoros Islands. We're hearing about three deaths and people being displaced in that country. And of course, people in Mozambique right now are waiting to assess the damage.
ALLEN: All right. We thank you, Eleni Giokos for us. We you know you'd be following it from there. Thank you.
HOWELL: And now let's bring in our meteorologist Ivan Cabrera who's following the path of the storm. Ivan?
IVAN CABRERA, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. One number I don't want to see is the over 800 souls we lost with the last storm there.
CABRERA: So hopefully that is much, much slower, which is incredible. And sometimes, you know, when that happens people played close attention because it happened just a few weeks apart. Everyone is just devastated and they're expecting the worst.
So, let's talk about this because it is a different cyclone. They're all different. Right now, because of intensity, not because of scale and wind. There's so much going on with these cyclones.
And depending on where they hit the particular area -- the coast they hit the density as far as the population. So, they're all different sometimes the worst effect from the storm that is half as strong. Right? So Idai there March 15, just a few weeks ago was a cat two. This was a
cat four. It's not exactly doubles the strength as exponentially higher. But the point is that Kenneth, as far as its windfall at landfall was 220 KPH and that's the strongest we've ever seen in Mozambique. But the landfall area may have help tremendously as far as the density of population.
Now, here is the storm. You can see it much weaker. Right? The cloud top you see there when you see the oranges and red that means it's higher in the atmosphere so they tend to produce a lot of heavy rainfall, that has weakened tremendously. I don't think that trend will continue. I think it's going to pulls up once again and we'll get back into some rainfall.
By the way, what a season. Right? So normally you get 15 named cyclone or nine. And so far, we've had 15, 10 intense.
[03:10:03] So you get the idea here, 2019 is going to be in the record books for the wrong reasons. And it is a rare event. If you're curious, four cyclones equivalent to cat three or higher have ever hit Mozambique.
And again, this one the strongest ever. And there it is. This is what I was alluding to as far as the population density. And I think folks perhaps were better prepared with a lot more coverage as far as what Idai did to the region.
So, storm spinning in place. It is no longer being track by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center because its inland. So, at this point we've transitioned from a tropical cyclone to a tropical rain event which can be just as deadly and sometimes worse than the winds.
Take a look at some of the rainfall tallies here with one of our particular models. So, we're talking the potential for 250 to perhaps 500 milliliters of rainfall and that involves rivers, streams, and then the flooding that's just immense. So, we'll have to watch that closely. And we're still waiting for really for really word on how exactly they fared across northern part of Mozambique with this latest storm.
ALLEN: I can't remember when two storms back to back this powerful.
CABRERA: Particularly in this area they're rare to get them anyway and to get them like that so close, it's quite something.
ALLEN: All right.
HOWELL: All right. Ivan, thank you.
CABRERA: You bet.
ALLEN: North Korea's Kim Jong-un is leaving eastern Russia following his first ever summit with the Russian president. As expected, that meeting ended without an agreement or joint statement. HOWELL: But the North Korean leader came out with its one on one top
sounding more belligerent than usual toward Washington as our Matthew Chance explains.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Heaving himself out of his specially imported stretch limo, North Korean dictator gets a red-carpet reception from Russia's strongman president.
This is the first time these two autocrats have actually met, the first chance to discuss Kim Jong-un's nuclear weapons and how Russia might get rid of them. This is classic Vladimir Putin inserting himself yet again into an international crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I'm sure your visit to Russia will also help to develop our bilateral relations and will help us to understand the ways we can settle the situation on the Korean peninsula.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: Putin says Kim has asked him to inform the U.S. about North Korea's position. This now look increasingly like a three-way nuclear negotiation with the Kremlin bang in the middle.
Details were sparse, but there was no shortage of diplomatic niceties at this summit. President Putin giving Kim a savor and a special Russian tea set. Putin was gifted an elaborate ceremonial sword.
Later, a formal reception dinner for both leaders. These optics are key. Growing allies with a close personal bond not the isolated figures often portrayed in the west.
Well, these talks seem to have been pretty short on specifics what exactly they talked about when it comes to disarmament on the Korean peninsula is unclear.
We do know though, what they ate because we got into this room where the reception was held. You can see there is a plate of bulgur wheat and beef. Some confectionaries and chocolates, and this little cheesecake here, a chocolate cheesecake with the North Korean and the Russian flag.
Outside, the Vladivostok summit a final farewell after what the Kremlin describes as constructive talks. Next stop for Putin is China. Another key ally leaving his new North Korean friend to explore this Russian city on his own.
Matthew Chance, CNN, Vladivostok in eastern Russia.
HOWELL: All right. Matthew, thank you. And in another development to tell you about, sources tell CNN that North Korea presented the United States with a bill for $2 million when Otto Warmbier was released in June 2017. The foreign ministry said it was for hospital care Warmbier received during his detention.
ALLEN: Highly disturbing bill there from North Korea on such a sad story. Warmbier was an American university student arrested in January 2016 during a visit to North Korea. Finally let go a year and a half later but he had severe brain damage and died less than one week after coming home.
HOWELL: CNN's Paula Hancocks is following the story in Seoul, South Korea. And Paula, the news of this bill we understand is news to Warmbier's parents. It certainly adds insult to injury given the loss of their son.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, George. I mean, North Korea is known for its provocative actions in many occasions and quite aggressive tactics. But this one is really taking many people by surprise. And the fact is, as you say, the parents of Otto Warmbier were not aware of it either until the Washington Post that first broke this story approached Fred Warmbier, his father.
[03:15:00] And Fred Warmbier said that this sounds like a ransom for his son. So, what we understand from two sources familiar with the situation, was that when Joseph Yun, the then point person for the U.S. when it came to North Korea, went to Pyongyang with the expectation that he would see Otto Warmbier with the hope that he would be able to bring Otto Warmbier back to the United States.
The sources say that he was then presented with that pledge to pay a $2 million bill. The sources say that he checks with then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who check with U.S. President Donald Trump and he was given permission to sign that and then brought Otto Warmbier home.
Now what we've heard from the official channels from Sarah Sanders, for example, the White House press secretary, she said that she won't comment on hostage negotiations and they don't. And it shows because they have been very successful in these hostage negotiations.
One source says that the Trump administration has not paid this money. And they say that when subsequently the following year there were three American detainees in North Korea that they were negotiating for their freedom. They said upfront that they would not give anything in response to their release.
So, we understand from those sources that North Korea has not brought this matter up again. But with North Korea, they quite often keep this kind of elements in their back pocket and then bring them forward when the timing is right for them to get maximum concessions. And the source acknowledges that this could come back to haunt them in the future.
HOWELL: Paula, yes, so I guess, you know, the question that I wanted to ask you this could play into negotiations as they are very delicate between the United States and North Korea?
HANCOCKS: Absolutely. And it's certainly a concern that the source did mention. They said that when they were setting up Singapore when they were setting up Hanoi, the summits between Kim Jong-un and the U.S. President Donald Trump, this was not brought up. It was not mentioned by the North Koreans in any shape or form.
And as I said back in 2018, when they were negotiating for the release of three American detainees in North Korea that the Trump administration was upfront and said we will not give you anything in return for this according to that one source familiar with this situation.
But there is a concern that potentially this could come up in the future. And of course, it does come just a few weeks after the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at an event where the Warmbier parents were, and pointed out that the U.S. does not pay ransoms and specify that they do not give money to those who take Americans hostage.
Because they believe that giving the terrorist organization or those entities money would just encourage them to take more Americans. So, certainly, there is a desire on many fronts to get more of a clarification from the Trump administration.
HOWELL: Paula Hancocks on the story in Seoul, South Korea. Paula, thank you.
ALLEN: Well, he's hoping the third time for charm. Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden enters the race for the White House. We'll tell you how he's trying to stand out in a crowded Democratic field, coming up.
HOWELL: Plus, the drive of a lifetime for a Saudi activist. In two leaks she crossed the United States to shine a light on the injustices in Saudi Arabia. We'll have that story from her. Stay with us.
[03:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HOWELL: The former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has announced that he's running for president and that makes him the 20th Democrat to enter the race to unseat President Donald Trump. Biden launched his campaign in an online video Thursday, casting the 2020 election as a battle to redeem, quote, "the soul of America from the Trump presidency."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are in the battle for the soul of this nation. I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time.
But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation of who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Here's a look at what has become a very crowded field now of Democratic contenders as we mentioned, there are now a total of 20. And despite Biden joining and after all the others, many polls show him already at the top.
HOWELL: Let's talk more now about what Joe Biden's entry to the 2020 race means with Julian Zelizer. Julian a CNN political analyst joining this hour from New York. Good to have you with us.
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me.
HOWELL: So, Julian, Mr. Trump seems to be playing close attention to the former vice president even mentioning him in a phone interview that he just recently gave with another network, saying, quote, "I think that when you look at Joe, he's not the brightest lightbulb in the group," Mr. Trump says. Should President Trump be concerned about Joe Biden entering this race?
ZELIZER: Sure. He should be concerned about Biden because Biden is polling very well and he's polling well in areas that President Trump will need to win in 2020. And frankly, he should be worried about a lot of the Democrats and that he is not in a particularly strong position right now. His approval is low. He's under a major investigation.
And so, any candidate with formidable skills such as Biden is going to concern him regardless of what he says on his Twitter account or in interviews.
HOWELL: Even our Jeff Zeleny pointing out in his reporting hearing from sources that the president is mentioning Joe Biden and talking about the state of Pennsylvania which again President Trump's flipped Republican in his win. Perhaps concerned about what Joe Biden would mean for Pennsylvania.
The other question I have for you given this crowded field of Democratic contenders. Some who are better known than others, where does the former vice president enter this race? Clearly, he leads the race at this point. But can he hold that?
ZELIZER: Well, it's going to be difficult. I don't think it's inevitable that he will be the winning nominee, he's facing not only crowded field but a very talented field from Kamala Harris to Elizabeth Warren to Mayor Buttigieg, Pete Buttigieg, these are candidates who are proving they can do well.
And then there's Bernie Sanders who is actually in some polls ahead of Biden. And Biden brings certain weaknesses. He's campaigned before. It hasn't gone well. He's not a particularly good fund-raiser. And he has a record from his time in the Senate that on key issues is really at odds with where the Democratic Party has evolved.
And so, there are many pitfalls for him between now and say super Tuesday to see if he really can sustain this position.
HOWELL: What did you think about Mr. Biden's first video message? Using Charlottesville as a centerpiece. Never making any mention of those Democratic contenders, nor any of the issues that they're talking about on the campaign trail. Instead, he seemed to be laser focused on the general election. ZELIZER: That's smart for him. His biggest argument is he's electable
and that he offers the best opportunity. Not necessarily to fulfill all the dreams of Democrats in terms of policy. But to defeat President Trump.
And so, he wants to stay on that message. And he defines his campaign around Charlottesville. The moment when he realized that something had gone wrong in this country. And that he had to re-enter into the political sphere.
[03:25:02] So I think overall, while there are criticisms of the video, it was effective for what he wants to do.
HOWELL: We are talking about Joe Biden the centrist obviously. The question, can he really be a viable candidate in such a time of deep polarization among both Democrats and Republicans.
ZELIZER: Well, that's a big issue. You know, he is promising to reach out to Republicans and promising that he will be able to somehow find this center which is pretty elusive in American politics.
And obviously, people point out that when he was vice president with Obama. President Obama promised initially that he had to be able to work with Republicans. But nothing of the sort happened. The GOP wasn't interested in compromise. And they remain a party that's even more extreme right now.
So, some people will ask, it sounds good what Biden is offering. But is it realistic to make that promise and is that the best strategy for Democrats in 2020?
HOWELL: Let's talk about Joe Biden's decision to call Anita Hill. You will remember, Biden led the hearings on Clarence Thomas's conformation and questions about sexual harassment regarding Anita Hill back in 1991. He was criticized for overseeing and even participating in harsh interrogation of Hill.
Thomas of course later going on to join the Supreme Court. What do you make of that decision to reach out to Anita Hill in recent weeks? And then her reaction in the interview she gave to the New York Times.
ZELIZER: Well, it suggests that he understands he has a problem. This goes back to his own record which is highly problematic. This was a real big moment in his career where he was on the wrong side of history. And many felt he really didn't treat her the right way or give enough time attention and offer other witnesses an opportunity to say what they experience with Clarence Thomas.
And so, he needs to deal -- do something. The call didn't really work well. Because Anita Hill said, you know, she wants to see more. She wants to see that he's serious about his understanding of what went wrong.
So, I think on the same day he opened his campaign, we saw the opening of one of the problems that he's going to be dealing with in the months ahead. HOWELL: Julian Zelizer, we appreciate your time today. Thank you.
ZELIZER: Thanks so much for having me.
ALLEN: In the months ahead because we got a long way to go here.
HOWELL: Yes, we do.
ALLEN: All right. Well, after months of yellow vests protests France's president is promising tax cuts and economic reform but will it be enough to end the unrest. That's coming up here.
HOWELL: Plus, CNN is learning disturbing details about the mass executions in Saudi Arabia this week. Why so many of the convicted men insisted they were innocent all the way to the very end. That story is coming up.
[03:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and around the world you're watching CNN Newsroom, I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines we are following for you this hour. Sri Lanka's defense secretary has resigned after the government admits it missed repeated warnings about the deadly Easter bombings. Police and the Prime Minister say more attacks could be in the works the government there is asking Muslims not to gather publicly for Friday prayers.
ALLEN: At this hour, Mozambique is being battered by another powerful storm. Cyclone Kenneth now bringing destructive winds and heavy rains and it comes on the heels of last month deadly cyclone. Kenneth has already caused destruction in the neighboring Comoros Islands, reportedly killing three people there.
HOWELL: Sources tell CNN, North Korea gave the United States a bill for $2 million when Otto Warmbier was released from prison back in June of 2017. Warmbier was in Americans student let go by North Korea with severe brain damage and he died just days after he was return home. The foreign ministry said it was for hospital care. The source says the U.S. has not paid and does not intend to pay.
ALLEN: French President Emmanuel Macron, says he is ready to make deep economic and political reforms hoping to appease Yellow Vest protestors who had been marching for almost six months now.
HOWELL: The demonstrators want an end to that country's widespread economic inequality. Many had demanded the French president resign. But Mr. Macron hopes that his reforms will tie them over. Although, it may be too little too late. Our Melissa Bell has this.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was in the end by way of a press conference of the French president spoke to the French people not that he has imagine in a form of a speech that have been due to take place on the night of the fire Notre Dame. He's planned had been to announce the measures upon which he decided the end of a month's long grand debate which is followed the government's attempt to try to listen to the demands of the Yellow Vest protesters. President Emmanuel Macron made clear, that he was on full listening mode.
PRES. EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): This time has transformed me too. I think I've touched much more deeply to the depths of it. What many of my fellow citizens living the pains, the misunderstandings and we are a country as this messed up before the election. We are awaiting for huge amount. Sometimes too much. And so we can think it is unfair and so on. And sometimes I was not aware of that expectations and this expectation justifies certain anger.
BELL: Emmanuel Macron did go on to announce significant measures like tax cuts for the middle classes, decentralization of France's governance and things like a 1000 euro minimum pension level for everyone inside France. So radical measures at any other time, but will they be radical enough to answer the demands for the Yellow Vest?
They have grown over the course of the last few weeks. Fewer in numbers on the streets of France, Saturday after Saturday and yet more radical in their demands, more revolutionary in their mood, it is unclear whether those announcements made by Emmanuel Macron tonight will make much of a difference to their enthusiasm to gather once again on May the 1st. Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.
HOWELL: On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced that it executed 37 people convicted of terror related crimes. It was one of the largest mass executions in the kingdoms history. And now, CNN has learned that many of those condemned to death, they insisted their confessions were completely false and were written by the people who torture them. CNN's senior international correspondents Arwa Damon is following the story in Istanbul.
And Arwa, just the numbers, the claims here more than troubling to say the least.
ARWA DAMON, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: And those are claims, this is information that we are not we are obtaining from hundreds and hundreds of court documents that were exclusively obtained by CNN's (Inaudible). There's a lot of detail on them that she -- CNN's (inaudible) have been pouring over and if we just use one of these cases as an example.
It's the case of what known as Awamiya 24 and that's referring it to the protest that took place in the predominantly Shia city of Awamiya back in 2011 and 2012, and if we look at what these court documents show, it shows how the Saudi government, the prosecution were trying to frame these demonstrators as being very violent as part taking in these anti-government demonstrations, as being drug dealers. Some of them are accused of partaking in homosexual activities.
[03:35:10] What is disturbing though is that that the documents themselves, George, show that a number of those accused while in court told the judge that there are confessions were extracted under torture. And if we just look at some of what is stated in these court documents by the defendants themselves, there is one of them who 27 years old. He is partially blind and deaf, his name is Munir Al-Azam, and according to these documents, he says, referring to his own confession, those aren't my words. I didn't write a letter, this is defamation and by the integrator with his own hand.
Another one of the men who was executed was just 17 years old at the time that he was detained. He was actually on route to the United States to begin enrolling in University, he was represented by his father who said that his son was subjected to psychological and physical abuse which drain his strength and that the interrogator dictated the confession to his son and that his son only signed it that the torture would end. This George is what is inside this court documents.
Now, Saudi officials had not responded to our questions as to whether or not these allegations that the confessions were obtain under torture, were actually investigated according to the court documents. It doesn't appear that they were, but in reference to these executions, Saudi officials did broadly say that they believe justice was served and that they have a no tolerance policy. Well, this is what it seems like that no tolerance policy looks like.
HOWELL: And I'm sure we'll be learning more, Arwa from you and your team as you continue to look through that information. Arwa Damon, live for us in Istanbul. Arwa, thank you.
ALLEN: A Saudi woman is driving across the United States to shine a light on injustices in her country. Manal al-Sharif was arrested in 2011 after defying Saudi Arabia's driving ban that ban for women. Now, she is taking to the open road again, in partnership with the human rights foundation.
HOWELL: Al-Sharif is calling on the Saudi kingdoms to end what she says is a war on women. She also wants to raise awareness for the detained activists who successfully campaigned for the driving ban to be lifted. Al-Sharif started in San Francisco California on April 12th. Covering nearly 5,000 kilometers before she arrived in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.
ALLEN: Joining me to talk about her journey across the United States is Manal al-Sharif. It's a pleasure to have you with us, Manal. And congratulations on what you just accomplished.
MANAL AL-SHARIF, SAUDI ARABIAN ACTIVIST FOR WOMEN'S RIGHT: Yes, 5,000 miles.
ALLEN: How was that for you?
AL-SHARIF: Oh my god. It was exhausting. I got food poisoning, never eaten a full house, for two days, but I think I learned a lot about the civil rights movement and also the parallels between the movement in Saudi Arabia, for the segregations, the more segregated society and also the segregated south here in the U.S. It was really interesting to learn that.
ALLEN: Right. Let's talk about your campaign and what was behind it the injustices towards women in Saudi Arabia, your country.
ALLEN: We certainly know it's just now allowing women to drive and you spearheaded that campaigned. Yes, do I have it right? There is some activist who supported this are still in jail?
AL-SHARIF: Yes. They released two. They released Hadiz and Iman and they took (inaudible), and the other woman remain in jail and the trial had been postponed, they send in to only to twice to the court, and then it's just being postponed and procrastinated. So, we know -- because there are no charges that are no charges against this woman, so we the charge is just a show, because the family started talking to the media and bringing attention and this drive really just to shed the light and keep them out there and keep the Saudi alive and that's the reform in Saudi Arabia are behind bars.
ALLEN: Right. And that illustrates the reluctant still with the leadership and Saudi Arabia to give women more rights. What issues have you sought to bring up as you driven across United States? And what's been the reaction when you tell people here about the absence of rights for women in your country?
AL-SHARIF: It's not only about absence like, we, they just assigned the first female ambassador in D.C. here. At the same time, the same ambassador have father permission to travel. So that's a huge contradiction between -- when they talk about women's right and they are still not recognized full citizens in my country. They need a male guardian until this day. Today is my birthday, I turned 40.
[03:40:11] ALLEN: Happy birthday!
AL-SHARIF: Thank you. I'm still -- I still need my father permission to travel abroad. And that for me is the reforms that to acknowledge and recognize the Saudi women as full citizens in my country.
And when I was talking to the people in the United States, a lot of them were happy, because for us the last country on earth were women could not drive, the ban was lifted. Everyone was celebrating, everyone, but they knew a letter about Jamal Khashoggi case and it really should a very bad light on Saudi Arabia in it was kind of confusing. Is it reformist, is it progressives or is it oppressive.
So that was -- and they were really interested to hear the story and I think the most interesting came when I was in New Orleans and I -- the gay parade, pride parade, they ask me to drive in the parade and like, I will do this.
It was huge and, you know that being gay in Saudi Arabia is against the law. I think for myself, just to drive and I met a lot of dissidents, I met a lot of Saudis, who their family members are being targeted or in jail. It was for me really why didn't my -- what I focus on it is not only speaking about my friends who are in jail today. Would been -- campaigning against the ban, campaigning against the guardianship system all these years. But also why didn't my -- how I look at the citizens of Saudi Arabia and all the pain and the oppression is happening, the Saudi Arabia, the unofficial numbers of human right organizations in Saudi Arabia says around 13,000 prisoners of conscience today are in jail. And these are the unofficial numbers, because we don't have official numbers.
ALLEN: Let's talk about that. What is it about Saudi Arabia that cannot let go of the impression of women? And what the role does the crowned prince play here? He was seen as progressive then there was the Khashoggi murder with many pointing to him for the killing of this beloved journalist. What do you think of him and his priorities when it comes to giving women rights?
AL-SHARIF: What happened for me is more of a stunt, it's more of a PR, because those women act -- right activist, they brought the media attention internationally to the hostile history (ph) of Saudi Arabia against women. That same card being used to propagate the propaganda of the reform, using women's rights and for me it's really hurtful that the same thing that we succeeded to bring media attention to a worldwide about how it's one of -- if it's not one of the most repressive societies and laws and policies in the world to mean.
I don't think I can think of anything more than it. Those same women who brought us media attention, their cause being used against them, their cause is being used to whitewash that hostile history against towards women in my country.
ALLEN: I want to ask you, when you go back home, when you go back home, what is your hope? How do you hope that what you've done here will have an impact in Saudi Arabia?
AL-SHARIF: I wish I can go back home, I'm living in exile in Australia. My son still lives back home in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are still living in a filtered bubble. So they still believe in the version of the story of the government whether when it comes to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Whether it comes to those prisoners of conscience, all the women rights activist. And it really hurts that we still need to -- we are still half way to go.
I think in Saudi Arabia -- the only hope is to continue talking and the only hope is to get more Saudis living abroad having the courage to speak up and come forward and tell their stories. And thankfully, I can see more and more Saudis living in a self-imposed exile or applying for asylum, speaking up to date. And that gives me hope to people back home to see that it's not a conspiracy against the government. And those women are not just spies or enemy of the state as the government is being stabbing them. They are really very patriots.
ALLEN: Certainly they. We appreciate what you are doing and we wish you all the best and what you're trying to do for women in your country. Manal al-Sharif, thank you so much. We wish you all the best.
HOWELL: Absolutely which of the best. Very insightful interview. ALLEN: Very cool things she did driving across the United States to
give attention to this.
[03:45:00] HOWELL: Absolutely, except for the food poison.
HOWELL: Still ahead here on Newsroom, when we come back, the Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomes the world leaders to Beijing to update his grand plan to rebuild the ancient Silk Road.
ALLEN: World leaders are gathering in China for the second annual one belt and one road form. President Xi Jinping foreign policy initiative is to rebuild the ancient Silk Road connecting China to Asia and beyond by investing the infrastructure of other nations.
HOWELL: Critics though have a different name for it they call it a Debt Trap. Debt Trap diplomacy as developing countries become more beholden to Beijing through loans that are provided.
ALLEN: CNN's Andrew Stevens is in Beijing for us covering it and that fact that Georges mentioned Andrew is that why some countries are skeptical about Beijing's plan?
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN NEWSTREAM ANCHOR: Absolutely, Natalie, the skepticism, the criticism, the concerns have been growing in recent years about, as George says, about the Debt Trap. And basically that works with China offering cheap loans at the times and in return, taking collateral of the assets for the being built.
For example, in Sri Lanka, the Chinese lend the Sri Lankan government billions of dollars to develop a big container shipping terminal on the East Coast of Sri Lanka. The projections on just how much money that port would make prove to be completely wrong.
And the Sri Lankans run into difficulty paying that debt back to China. So, China stepped in and took over the port. They have now a 99 year lease on a major strategic sight on the East Coast of Sri Lanka. And this is the concern, this Debt Trap concern, Debt Trap diplomacy, the U.S. calls it the predatory approach to the Chinese belt and road initiative. And that concerns has been growing in many other countries around Asia and an African as well.
To the point, Natalie, that Xi Jinping is now recognizing that he has to do so, that China has to preset a new face on this belt and road initiative. And that is what we are seeing here in Beijing today. He is just finished a major speech. Remember, this is a very, very important foreign policy for the Chinese government. He just finished a speech. Just listen to a portion of what he had to say about the future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[03:50:07] XI JINPING, PRESIDENT OF CHINA (through translator): We must try to achieve high standards, benefits people's livelihood and achieve sustainable goals. We will introduce rules and standards that I generally supported by all parties and promotes enterprises to follow the generally accepted international rules as standards while respecting local laws and regulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEVENS: So really this is a race if you like from the very top level of China. They are now saying that they can offer more transparency in these financial deals. This is going to be zero tolerance for corruption. They're going to look at international law and they really want to bring in other multilateral lenders, like the U.N for example to into this belt and road initiatives.
So, it really is the Chinese acknowledging that they have a bad image amongst many of their client's states in some ways. And that they need to address this. And Xi Jinping has been saying this to some 37 leaders, national leaders, international leaders including people like Vladimir Putin, Southeast Asian country leaders, central Asian country leaders and even the Prime Minister of Italy.
And this is interesting, because the Europeans have been very divided about this whole belt and road initiative and the strategic implications that it could made with China building a foothold in Europe. But we have the Prime Minister of Italy that signed up to the belt and road. So, that is also something that China is trying to push forward, get more in roads into Europe, Natalie.
ALLEN: All right. Thank you Andrew Stevens for us. We know you will continue to follow it, thanks.
HOWELL: Prince William brings a message of hope to New Zealand after last month's deadly mosque attack. Still ahead, his visit with one tiny victim who spent weeks in a coma. After she and her father were wounded.
HOWELL: Prince William is in New Zealand where he has been visiting survivors of last month's mosque attack in Christchurch. He also spoke at Al Noor mosque.
ALLEN: And the 50 people shot and killed that day during a Friday prayers, 43 were at the Al Noor. The prince told the audience, the man had been driven by a war ideology that must be defeated. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is following the story for us in Hong Kong and his presence is certainly so important there. And Kristie, there's been some really poignant moments to the speaking out as well
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, a number of poignant moments perhaps the most poignant was this encountered that took place at the pediatric hospitals in (Inaudible) yesterday where you see Prince Williams sitting next to this little girl, 5 year-old girl named Ellen, who had just woken up from a coma earlier this week. She had sustained critical injuries from the terror attacks. She had woken up from a coma and she speaking one on one with Prince William. We have a little bit of their exchange, let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLEN, VICTIM IN MOSQUE ATTACK: Do you have a daughter?
PRINCE WILLIAM, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE: Do I have a daughter?
WILLIAM: Yes, she is called Charlotte.
ELLEN: What is her name?
WILLIAM: Charlotte. She's about the same age as you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: One of many poignant moments during this visit in New Zealand, Prince William is there to honor the survivors as well as to pay tribute to the victims of one New Zealand's darkest days. It was six weeks ago today went terror took hold in Christchurch, taking the lives of 50 Muslim worshippers and wounding 50 more.
[03:55:07] Prince William is there to offer royal family supports, where you saw just then the survivors of the terror attack as well as victims' families. He's met with first responders, he met with the New Zealand police commissioner yesterday. He is also been speaking with Muslim community leaders.
Earlier today, he spoke with a hospital in Christchurch where he said that he stands united with New Zealand and also said in a very heart felt speech at the forces of love will always prevail over the forces of hatred. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM: To the people of New Zealand, and the people of Christchurch. To our Muslim community and all those who had rallied to your side. I stand with you in gratitude for what you told the world this past weeks. I stand with you in optimism about the future of this great city. I stand with you in grief for those we have lost. And with supports for those who survived. And I stand with you firm belief that the forces of love will always prevails over the forces of hate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LU STOUT: Prince William is visiting New Zealand on behalf of his grandmother with the queen and at the request of the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who would say that he would bring comfort to her nation, inciting his close connection, not just (inaudible) New Zealand, but also the Christchurch in 2011 in the aftermath of another tragedy to strike that city, the earthquake which took the lives of over 180 people. Prince William paid a visit then, eight years on, he has returned to Christchurch, to focus the world's attention on the city there, on the community there to honor the survivors, the victims and also to honor the people who have chosen to respond to terror with love and compassion. Back to you, George.
HOWELL: Kristie Lu Stout, thank you again for the reporting.
ALLEN: Before we go this hour, we have this to share with you, the 25th James Bond film, it still doesn't have a name, but it's late to hit theaters about one year from now.
HOWELL: And cast members including Double 07 himself, Daniel Craig, made the announcement from the estate of Bond creator in Fleming, in Jamaica. The film is expected to be Craig's fifth and last as the British super spy and Bond 25, he sent on a mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist.
ALLEN: Co-star in is a franchise newcomer Rami Malek will be the villain, certainly you remember Malek, fresh from winning an Oscar for portraying Queen front man Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody.
All right, the next Bond movie in one year. Thanks for watching CNN Newsroom, I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell, the news continues with Max Foster in London, stay with us.