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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
Trial Documents Raise Questions About Saudi Executions; Interview with REP. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) about Saudi Executions; The Mastermind Behind the Easter Sunday Attacks; Police Find Explosives, ISIS Uniforms in Raid; Trump Addresses NRA; Joe Biden Begins His Campaign; A Look at Spain's Coming Election; Maria Butina Sentenced; Chimp Masters Instagram. Aired 2- 3p ET
Aired April 26, 2019 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] HALA GORANI, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Live from CNN London, I'm Hala Gorani.
Tonight Saudi Arabia said they confessed, but court filings show some men executed in the kingdom this week, protested their innocence. That
revelation is found in hundreds of court documents CNN has exclusively obtained.
They show that the victims of Saudi Arabia's mass execution recently pleaded for their lives and told the courts in fact that they has been
tortured into making false confessions. This is the youngest who was ex- executed two days ago. He had been charged with participating in violent
protests at only the age of 16. It comes as the kingdom feels the heat after the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Tonight, we get international reaction from the report and I'll also be speaking to a U.S. Congressman for his reaction to this exclusive
reporting. Arwa Damon joins me live from Istanbul with more on what these court filings reveal. Arwa?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Hala. Hundreds and hundreds of pages there, they center around the cases of 25 out of the
37 who were executed, you showed the example there of the youngest, and then there is another young man who is just 17 years old at the time of his
alleged crime of according to the documents throwing a Molotov cocktail at police. Then using his blackberry to start an attack group to try to rally
people to demonstrations.
His father appeared in court to defend him and try to plead with the judge that his son was innocent going on to say that his son's confession came
apart because of severe psychological and physical torture and that his son had been forced to sign this confession to make the torture stop. And we
have numerous similar examples in these court documents.
Another man who was 27 years old, slightly blind and deaf says to the judge, those are not my words. I did not write this letter. And the Saudi
authorities when we tried to reach out to them, have quite simply not responded, but we're trying to figure out whether or not these allegations
of torture, confession under torture, were ever actually investigated, Hala.
GORANI: Right. And also you mentioned the case of the 27-year-old partially blind and deaf who said in court, according to these filings,
these are not my words. I did not write a letter. It was my torturer who wrote the letter. The United Nations even raised concerns about these
cases. What was the response of Saudi authorities?
DAMON: Well, great question that you bring that up and very important too. Because the United Nations had raised concerns about these various cases,
especially those that center around an anti-Saudi government demonstration case. And they were concerned about how the Saudi government was handling
these cases in 2017. At that time, the Saudis responded by saying that they -- individuals had confessed and that that is why they had been
Problem is, these court documents show that it would appear that those confessions were under duress, that these individuals has been tortured
into confessing. So the narrative that the Saudi Arabian government was trying to put out there that these were done and dusted cases, does not
hold up when you look at these documents.
GORANI: And one quick last one on where these demonstrations place. These are -- this is the biggest mass execution since two years ago that included
a cleric. These people who were executed, some of them took part in demonstrations in those Shia areas of Saudi Arabia. Why is that
[14:05:00] DAMON: The cleric was from that area and that is where those demonstrations from 2001 and 2012 had been taking place. They were calling
for a more inconclusive government, calling for freedom, calling for basic rights and the ability to live a life in dignity because Saudi Arabia's
minority Shia population feels marginalized. When the cleric was executed in 2016, there was a lot of suspicion about what the motivate behind that
was and what kind of a threat he and his followers were posing to the kingdom.
And the crackdown on the demonstrations were very severe as well. But amnesty international, human rights watcher, other organizations had been
calling on Saudi authorities to tolerate demonstrators to stop cracking down and detaining people with impunity when all they were doing was
calling for their basic rights. It goes to this overall attitude of really targeting anyone who is perceived as posing a mild threat to the kingdom.
And as we know, not from these 37 you were executed, but also from the Jamal Khashoggi, at this stage, Saudi Arabia can carry out these actions
without no accountability.
GORANI: Our senior international correspondent. Thanks very much. We've had some reaction the U.S. State Department said, quote, we've seen these
reports, we urged the government of Saudi Arabia and all governments to ensure a proper trial.
This was the statement from the State Department that some of these men in court contradicted claims that they had confessed. Earlier I spoke to a
Democratic U.S. Congressman. I began by asking him for his reaction to CNN's exclusive reporting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): The whole system of justice in Saudi Arabia is one that is anything but judicious. People are accused of crimes and those
crimes are capital by way of punishment. One of the 37 executed this last week allegedly committed a crime by demonstrating against certain policies
of the Saudi government when he was 16 years old. International guidelines condemn the execution of anyone under 18. And there are Trumped up
charges, there are sort of kangaroo courts and the execution of individuals who were not given due process and fair trials.
GORANI: What do you think --
CONNOLLY: The entire system is corrupt.
GORANI: What do you think the U.S. reaction should be. As you well know and you're a member of the foreign affairs committee, the United States
sells billions and billions of arms to Saudi Arabia, there was already some objection to these sales. 2018 the President signed a 100 billion-plus
arms deal with Saudi Arabia. What do you think the U.S. should do here?
CONNOLLY: I think the United States ought to stand on principle and its values and it ought to condemn these executions. They are a real blot on
Saudi Arabia and they're a blot on the international system of justice.
GORANI: The U.S. has condemned them, but do you think that arms sales should be halted?
CONNOLLY: I believe that there ought to be a long pause in arms sales to the Saudis until there's justice for Jamal Khashoggi and until we see some
domestic reforms that avoid this kind of mess without due process.
GORANI: A long pause and a reevaluation.
CONNOLLY: That's right. Saudi Arabia has been a strategic partner in the region and we respect that, but not at all costs. We cannot send a message
that the United States for the all mighty dollar is willing to put aside values that we have enshrined from our constitution, our society and are
accepted in the international community as well.
GORANI: When I said the U.S. has condemned it, we heard from the state department in a statement saying we've seen these reports and it falls
short of a condemnation. We urge the government of Saudi Arabia and all governments to ensure essentially basic liberties. Are you satisfied with
that type of statement from the state department?
[14:10:04] CONNOLLY: No, I am not. I believe it needs to be a full- throated condemnation. And combined with a full-throated insistence that anyone involved in Jamal Khashoggi's dreadful murder be brought to justice
including at the highest levels of the Saudi government if that where it takes us.
GORANI: And you in March asked Mike Pompeo about specifically this Jamal Khashoggi murder. He lived in your constituency in Virginia. He said that
the U.S. did respond by banning some Saudi citizens. Do you think that goes far enough?
CONNOLLY: No, it doesn't. And he kept on repeating that he would hold any Saudi accountable. They're laughing one week after the murder, how can we
have confidence in Mike Pompeo insisting on the Saudis being brought to justice for that murder when the chief architect of that murder, allegedly,
the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, is sitting right next to him promising he will bring them to justice.
GORANI: Apart from a halt or a pause in arms sales what else do you think the United States should do right now when you say put pressure or hold
those accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi or the -- or make sure that executions are not done in an extra judicial way, what do you think
the United States should do?
CONNOLLY: There are lots of avenues available to us with respect to the Saudis. Money measure Congress did take on a bipartisan basis was to cut
off all military supply and support for the Saudi-led operation in Yemen. It is a key project of the crowned prince himself. That would have been a
very strong message and a strong action on the part of the United States government. As I said, that passed the Congress, both the Senate and the
House on a bipartisan basis. Unfortunately the President of the United States, presumably, with the advice of Mr. Pompeo, decided to veto that
GORANI: Why do you think that the U.S. President vetoed that bill in particular?
CONNOLLY: He has said why. He believes that the financial arrangements both military and otherwise with the Saudis, is more important than
standing for principles and human rights. I beg to differ. I think the human rights issue has to be something that is paramount in U.S. foreign
GORANI: It's not just the United States, the European countries sell arms to Saudi Arabia, they have very close business deals with Saudi Arabia, the
country I'm in now, the United Kingdom, France and others, would you call on them to do the same?
CONNOLLY: You know, I've got my hands full with my own government. But I certainly would urge them to consider long and hard the behavior of the
Saudis and that by frankly continuing business as usual, you're enabling that behavior.
GORANI: Gerry Connolly, a Democratic Congressman speaking with me from Washington. Jamie Rubin joins me, he's a former Secretary of State for
Public Affairs and a contributing editor to "Politico." The next day after these executions were announced, big banking CEOs showed up in Riyadh for a
business conference and if there was ever a way to illustrate how really business relationships and the ability of businesses to generate revenue in
Saudi Arabia trumps sometimes other concerns, that would have been it. Western countries are not coming out and condemning Saudi Arabia in
particular because they have very close business relationships.
JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Certainly that's one of the reasons, the Saudi Arabian government has
integrated itself very intensely through western governments, through arms sales, through normal commerce, through the sale of oil, et cetera, but I
think that one factor that hasn't come up yet that the administration deserves is due which is that there is a real proxy war, if not a direct
confrontation in the region between Iran and the countries led by Saudi Arabia.
[14:15:00] And the United States is confronting Iran's attempt to win over increasingly parts of the Middle East, so they can control different parts
of Iraq, parts of Lebanon, Syria and Iran, and have a land bridge all the way from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. That is a real danger for
all of us, Iran has shown a willingness to export its revolution to use massive terrorist attacks in that part of the world and elsewhere and Saudi
Arabia is our ally in that battle, and we should remember that.
It doesn't mean that we can't condemn human rights abuses, it doesn't mean we have to give them a free pass on every single thing that goes on, but I
think in any honest assessment of American interests and global interests in that part of the world, the Iran question has to be put on the table.
Assessment of American interests and global assessment of American interests and global interests in that part of the world, the Iran question
has to be put on the table.
GORANI: Certainly that would explain in terms as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, the fear that Iran is organizing some of these demonstrations is
a worry for Saudi Arabia which is one of the reasons they're reacting in this way, potentially.
RUBIN: Well, that's right. The struggle that is now turned into a regional war, really, if you think about what's going on in Syria, what's
going on in Yemen and what's going on within specific Sunni countries where majorities or minorities are repressed or cracked down upon. I don't think
there's a real threat in Saudi Arabia from its shite community. I think the government overreacts to these demonstrations of simple of expressions
And I believe the administration is underplaying human rights questions just the way it underplayed the Khashoggi murder and the terrible irony of
all of this is when the new crown price came on the scene, he was opening up his society, and showing that movie theaters and night life could go on
in Saudi Arabia --
GORANI: And now you have a lot in women in prison, a lot of female activists and others -- in fact, not even politically active, but just some
bloggers and people who have been immediately critical of the Saudi royal family, not in any activist kind of way. Why is the U.S. not using the
leverage that it has -- it could do that without threatening its relationship with the country, because it has a lot of leverage.
RUBIN: I agree with that completely. I was pointing out that the original MBS mission was to open up the country to the world and it has failed,
obviously, with the Khashoggi murder, with the arrest that is you've talked about, and obviously with this kind of international publicity about
beheadings and executions of people who demonstrated at age 15 or 16. Well, there is no good reason why the United States can't chew gum and walk
at the same time.
Every other administration prior to the current one has found a way to maintain a strategic relationship, work closely with Saudi Arabia on its
fundamental strategic interests vis-a-vis Iran, while at the same time raising appropriate questions on human rights, Democratic values and
showing that the United States is different than, say, another great power that's looking to enter into the region like Russia or China. We are
capable and we can have allies where we're occasionally critical. We don't have to go mum and silent when we see something this abhorrent.
GORANI: And this is potentially why there's a lot of ill will directed at the U.S. in the region. As you know, when they don't hear condemnation
from the United States and the U.S. does not put pressure, they think it's acting hypocritically.
RUBIN: That's right. And there's always going to be a degree of realism in American foreign policy and we will never live up to the standards of
some in the human rights community who expect human rights and Democratic values to be the single most important element of our foreign policy.
Although I believe in those values and I think they can be applied a lot more than they are today, they aren't the only value.
[14:20:00] When we back in the day when I used to speak for the United States, from the State Department podium, I think we were in a much better
position. It was prior to the torture in Iraq, it was prior to a lot of other things, to stand up and say, yes, this is our friend, but we think
our friend is harming itself by violating these human rights standards that are universal.
GORANI: Thanks so much. Always appreciate talking to you.
A lot more to come. A terrifying discovery in Sri Lanka. Everything a terrorist would need to carry out another series of bombings. A live
report on the fears of another round of attacks when we come back.
GORANI: Here's a scary scene, 150 sticks of explosives. 100,000 ball bearings, perfect for being used as shrapnel and bombs, and several ISIS
flags and uniforms. That is what police in Sri Lanka found when they raided the home of a suspected terrorist just a few hours ago. In a
separate raid, police engaged in a gun battle with other suspected terrorists. Sri Lankan authorities believe there may be more than a
hundred terrorists and sleeper cells throughout the country.
The fears of a new round of attacks are so heightened right now that Muslim and Christian leaders are urging people not to go to their mosques or their
churches this weekend. So who is behind all this terror? Police say it's a man named Zahran Hashim
CNN's Sam Kiley has been on the trial of Hashim and his followers and has just sent us this report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Identified as the spiritual leader of the group behind the Sri Lankan Easter massacres,
authorities now say he died in one of the suicide attacks.
Zahran Hashim shown here in images released by ISIS. He practiced what he preached, here telling followers that all non-Muslims should be killed.
His murderous ideology put down routes here in a Muslim town on the island's east. Local Muslims say the seeds came from the Gulf region.
Sri Lankan police say more suspects are at large and people here are so fearful of the radical ideology that no one will appear on camera. This
Sufi community says it's borne the brunt of resistance against what they say is an infection of extremist ideology imported from the Gulf and
reinforced with a lot of extra money. They say that this is resulted in violence against them, their homes have been burned, their offices have
been machine gunned in a clash of their supporters and those of Zahran Hashim.
[14:25:00] Resulted in his arrest and later in him going into hiding. That was two years ago. But Sufis as practitioners of mystical Islam remain
afraid. Zahran Hashim founded this mosque. He recruited followers here until he was expelled for inciting violence. And went underground.
We've been to the offices, the home of the director, nobody is talking to us. Indeed locals are afraid to speak to us too. But they say that
youngsters love coming here because they can't speak the Arabic of Koran. They come here for an interpretation. They say the problem is that that
interpretation is an extremist.
He somehow made contacts with an ISIS member now arrested in India. He told Indian intelligence of his plot to kill tourists and Christians.
These details were relayed to Sri Lanka in April. His name appears in a Sri Lankan police alert on April the 11th.
His brother now on the run is also identified in the police memo as a plotter, we traced his address. The brothers name is on the water bill.
Again and again we are encountering people who knew Zahran our new his brother. This family and other neighbors have confirmed that they did live
in the house just down the road here.
They're saying they were very, very unpleasant neighbors and there were altercations between the adults in Zahran household and some of the
children here, these children were hit. He continued to preach online and somehow recruited wealthy followers in the capital as suicide bombers.
M. AZATH S. SALLEY, SRI LANKAN PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR: He's the guy who is giving them the ideology and when he talks to people, they get convinced.
KILEY: This is his last video appearance moments before he detonated one of the two bombers who killed many in Shangri La hotel. He was caught on
CCTV but Sri Lankan authorities have no explanation of how a notorious salesman of violence was not caught in person. Sam Kylie, CNN, Sri Lanka.
GORANI: Joining me live now from the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, is Will Ripley. Talk to us about these raids. I was just detailing for our
viewers what was found. The amount of explosives and ISIS flags and then a gun battle with other suspects in another home. Just a few weeks ago we
had no idea this threat existed and now it seems like it's everywhere.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On top of that, there were three explosions while police officers were investigating these houses and
storage areas of suspected terrorist insurgencies. They're talking about looking for 130 suspects which is -- which as you said, it was a threat
that nobody even knew about just over a week ago. People maybe had some sort of a clue in some parts of the government but the threat was not
passed along to the innocent people who should have been told to be alert.
You detailed the things that were found. I can tell you that I witnessed firsthand the horrific and appalling devastation as a result of the suicide
bombings which were the result of the devices that these people were trying to put together at these locations that police were raiding. I saw the
ball bearing marks in the columns that has been stripped by the force of the explosion.
The suicide bomber stood in an area near where children were playing and I saw children's shoes and clothing and piles of shoes, and piles of clothing
and hats, and to think that these people are still in this country, still out there plotting to carry out more attacks like this against innocent
people, it is -- it certainly adds a real sense of urgency to this search to try to find as many of these terrorists as possible and get them off the
streets and locked up so they cannot brutally murder more innocent people.
When you see the results of these attacks and smell death in the air and you talk to a father who lives in the church and has lived surrounded by
that smell, the reminders of all of the people who were killed on Easter Sunday, that underscores how important this fight against terrorism in Sri
Lanka and around the world is.
GORANI: It sure makes it real and it is a tragedy and we're still processing it. Thanks very much. Will Ripley in Colombo. We'll be right
back. Stay with CNN.
GORANI: U.S. President Donald Trump says he's putting the United Nations on notice, that his administration will not ratify an international arms
treaty. He made the announcement before an enthusiastic group of gun rights supporters. Mr. Trump's address to the National Rifle Association
sounded like a campaign rally, with some crowd-pleasing theatrics.
The president pulled out a pen, and signed a note to the Senate instructing it to return the treaty to his Oval Office, where he would then throw it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESDIENT: This treaty threatened your subjugate and you know exactly what's going on here, your rights -- your constitutional
and international rules and restrictions, and regulations. Under my administration we will never surrender American sovereignty to anyone.
We will never allow foreign bureaucrats to trample on your Second Amendment freedom, and that is why my administration will never ratify the U.N. Arms
Trade Treaty. I hope you're happy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: CNN's Sarah Westwood is live in Indianapolis, Indiana where the NRA is holding its yearly meeting. What is this U.N. Arms Treaty, explain
to our viewers -- and why is the president saying that it would in any way threaten the Second Amendment?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Hala, the Arms Trade Treaty -- this is an international agreement that governed arms sales between
countries from small arms, to big ones, and larger equipment. And this is something that the NRA had long opposed, arguing that at worst it was
ineffective, and potentially even restrictive to gun owners in the U.S.
Although the Obama administration which took the lead at negotiating this had said that this treaty wouldn't have any effect on gun owners on the
laws that govern individuals and states, but nonetheless, President Trump came up on the stage, said he hadn't informed NRA leaders of his decision,
but announced that he would be stopping the ratification process in Congress, and also rescinding the U.S. signature from this agreement.
There are 100 countries that have signed the Arms Trade Treaty, and the U.S. now effectively leaving it will be in the company of countries like
North Korea, Syria, Russia -- these are countries that refused to participate. But it is in keeping, Hala, with the president's skepticism
of big, multilateral agreements he's pulled the U.S. out of them -- ones ranging from trade to climate change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Sarah Westwood, thanks live in Indiana. Before Mr. Trump left Washington today he briefly talked about a number of issues including
reports that North Korea demanded a $2 million payment for the hospital care of an American college student who later died, Otto Warmbier.
CNN White House Reporter, Stephen Collinson joins me now from Washington with more. Stephen, first on this international Arms Treaty, I mean the
idea that he's telling NRA supporters that this would in any way threaten their individual rights, instead the United States of America.
I mean, what he's doing is he's playing to his base here, is saying yet another international treaty and all these international organizations and
globalization and all of that stuff -- you can count on me, I'm going to vote against it -- I'm going to remove our name from the list of
signatories. And this is working with his base.
STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right Hala, I think you could call it the ultimate America first moment of the Trump
Because the president is not just saying that Democrats want to take away your guns, he's saying that the rest of the world wants to take away your
guns. So he's setting himself up alongside his base as he always does, and as you say.
Now this is somewhat of an empty gesture because this treaty wasn't being ratified in the Senate anyway, but it's a moment of theatrics, and I think
it also plays in to what we've been seeing in recent weeks which is the increasing hostility towards anything to do with the U.N.
Many people sort of attribute that to the National Security Advisor, and a former U.N. Ambassador for the United States, John Bolton who on multiple
fronts is attacking the U.N. and that's clearly something that is a central piece of the Trump administration's foreign policy, and it also plays in to
its political goals as he heads towards reelection.
GORANI: And a word on Otto Warmbier, that American college student who tragically died upon his return from North Korea. Following reports that
North Korea asked the United States for a $2 million payment for his hospital care, Donald Trump had this to say about those reported -- or,
that reported payment. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We did not pay money for our great Otto. There was no money paid, there was a fake news report that money was paid -
- I haven't paid money for any hostage and I've gotten approximately -- I think it's 20 or 21 out. We don't pay money for hostages, the Otto case
was a very unusual case -- but I just want to let you know, no money was paid for Otto.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: Well I think on this one there is probably bipartisan relief, Stephen.
COLLINSON: Right. You know, we've learned not to take the president's word in many occasions, but three sources have told CNN that there wasn't
any payment made for this $2 million bill.
Remember, this came at a time in North Korea-U.S. relations of great tension before the president started to open that channel with Kim Jong-un,
but any suggestion at all that there was a payment made to get Otto Warmbier out of North Korea clearly has huge implications across a broad
scope of U.S. foreign policy, and the idea that Americans could be at risk around the world. So the government has come out very strongly.
Warmbier's return to the United States in 2017, albeit when he was in a comatose state and died a few days later was seen as an early foreign
policy success of the Trump administration, so that's another reason why they're trying to get out and deny this report and give sort of no sense
that the United States is in the business of paying for people to be released who imprisoned abroad.
GORANI: We've seen many times in the Middle East that that is the case, the United States does not pay -- the government does not pay for hostages.
Joe Biden, the latest Democrat to throw his hat in the race is leading in the polls. He was on an American talk show called "The View," and he
responded to Trump describing himself as "young and vibrant," in this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If he looks young and vibrant compared to me, I should probably go home. Look, everybody knows who Donald Trump
is, and the best way to judge me is to watch -- see if I have the energy and the capacity. And I mean, it's -- this is show me business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: You know the one thing -- and this is funny, and everybody chuckled a bit at that, but I mean -- I'm wondering if Donald Trump is
using that line to attack Joe Biden, what does that tell us? That he has nothing else up his sleeve so far, that he hasn't thought of anything else
because, I mean to say that he's young and vibrant compared to Joe Biden, they're only a few years apart and both in their 70s.
COLLINSON: That's right Hala, but you'll remember back in the 2016 campaign he attacked the health and energy of Hillary Clinton, and that did
work for the conservative media machine that just kept driving about it on, and on, and on. And it's possible that he sees some weakness there with
Joe Biden, even as you say Trump is 72 -- Biden is 76.
I'm not sure that we would really look forward to an election campaign that's going to be a test of strength and boasting about their fitness
between two men who'll then be in their mid and late 70s. So if this is the way it's going to end up in November 2020 and before in those
presidential debates, this is probably a preview of that.
But certainly people around the president believe that Joe Biden could actually be quite a threat to him especially in the mid-Western
industrialist states that helped send the president to the White House in the first place. Biden has this reputation as a champion of the working
class, he's very strong with unions, and that's one of the reasons (ph) why we're already -- you know, Biden's been in the race for what 24 hours? And
we're already seeing this clash between the president and the Democratic front runner.
GORANI: Stephen Collinson, thanks very much -- have a great weekend. Check out our Facebook page, facebook.com/halagoranicnn and I'm on Twitter
as well @halagorani.
Speaking of elections, the voters in Spain will go to the polls on Sunday, the latest display of political instability. It's the country's third
general election in just four years -- imagine if you had that many in the U.S.? And if recent local elections are any indication, the far-right
party, Vox could make some significant gains. Isa Soares travels to one area where that party is gaining ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ISA SOARES: Crammed between the sea and the Andalusian Mountains, and as far as the eye can see is a shimmering white city draped in plastic.
This is Almeria (ph) in Southern Spain, and here produce is king. With each plastic greenhouse growing much of Europe's fruit and vegetables from
peppers, to (inaudible), tomatoes to (inaudible). But the most important seeds sprouting here isn't produce, but a political party.
Vox is Spain's first selected far-right party since the death of Dictator Francisco Franco in 1975. And its entry is already shaking up the
political landscape. I meet Vox's local candidate. Last year they won nearly 30 percent of the vote in region elections here in El Ejido. With a
pledge of national unity, to put a stop to corruption and illegal immigration.
JUAN JOSE BONILLA, VOX CANDIDATE FOR EL EJIDO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I'm 42 years old, and I grew up in El Ejido, I was born in El Ejido. I've run up
and down this town, today we don't dare let our children do the same -- there's no safety, there are robberies, rapes -- there's a lot of crime.
SOARES: Who do you blame, migrants?
BONILLA: Yes, Spanish people commit crimes, and migrants commit crimes -- the majority are migrants. But a walk through El Ejido shows how much this
region is dependent on seasonal (ph) labor, mostly carried out by migrants from North Africa.
SOARES: What Vox has been able to do in southern Spain is exploit voter frustration, in particular the question of immigration. And while the
number of migrants coming in from across the Mediterranean have in fact fallen, Spain has become one of the main entry points for migrants with
roughly 63,000 arriving in Andalusia last year alone.
But while they're needed here, the culture differences make many Spaniards feel uneasy. Despite this, I struggle to find anyone who will openly
acknowledge they're Vox supporters.
This woman tells me --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): If people want to change, they want to change and to try something new, but unconsciously they don't know
what Vox is.
We're fed up of so many migrants, they come without paperwork, they do what they want -- what they feel like. We're very tired of them.
SOARES: Across Spain, Vox has been derided as far-right, populist, anti- Islam, and anti-immigration. In fact, it's leader Santiago Abascal is borrowing from President Trump's book.
Your leader says he wants to build a wall in the border -- Spain's border with Morocco, and he wants Morocco to pay for that wall, do you believe
BONILLA (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I don't care if the wall is made of bricks, steel or wire -- what we want is to close the door so that migrants don't
flood Spain. Because Spanish people cannot stand that flood of migrants.
SOARES: While their message may seem unfiltered, it is one that is resonating with many Spaniards who feel abandoned as well as betrayed by
Spain's main political parties. Isa Soares, CNN El Ejido, Spain.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GORANI: A familiar story, certainly we've heard it in other countries. A lot more to come this evening, the convicted Russian agent is sentenced in
the U.S., not for spying but for infiltrating U.S. political circles, we'll be right back.
GORANI: Russian agent Maria Butina will spend another nine months in an American prison. She was given her sentence after pleading guilty to
conspiracy. And Butina is the first Russian convicted of crimes related to the 2016 U.S. election but not necessarily related to Moscow's election
For details Sara Murray joins us now from Washington. So what exactly did she plead guilty to, and is this nine month sentence a surprise?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it is a little bit of a surprise, you know. She pleaded guilty to being part of this consipiracy
and acting at the direction of a Russian agent who is Aleksandr Torshin, a former Russian central banker.
But she's already been behind bars for about nine months and I think her attorneys were hoping that prosecutors would agree to just let her go with
time served. That is not the case, I mean prosecutors essentially came out and the judge agreed and said what she did was try to establish this back-
channel of communications between the U.S. and Russia.
And the judge said, this is a serious crime -- it wasn't just a simple failure to register your activities with the Attorney General. The judge
said she was able to deeply infiltrate these political groups, she was sophisticated in how she did it -- and the judge said it was dangerous that
she did it this way because she failed to register.
And so she is facing another nine months behind bars, and you know the other thing that was very interesting about her case is this is the case
the Justice Department brought from their National Security division, it was not part of special council Robert Mueller's Russia probe, but it's
very clear that her fate is tied up in the state of U.S. and Russia relations right now.
The judge even pointed out that Maria Butina was carrying out these activities in the U.S. at the same time that Russia was actively
interfering in America's election. So it's clear that her fate is very much linked to what is going on -- the climate, the tensions between the
U.S. and Russia right now.
GORANI: And -- but there were American requests for her expedition back to Russia, why is that?
MURRAY: Well after she finishes serving her time in the U.S. she is going to be deported -- and this is something that both sides agreed on. Of
course her lawyers hoped that she was going to be deported, you know today, or tomorrow, or the day after that. They certainly didn't want to see her
sitting behind bars for another nine months.
And obviously it'll be a little bit of a wait -- she could get out sooner than nine months for good behavior, but all sides agree that after she does
serve her time in the U.S. she will be going back to Russia.
And it'll be interesting to see how she's greeted there, you know the Russian experts I've talked to say that she will get a very warm welcome
probably in the style of Anna Chapman, you know the spy who was returned to Russia in 2010 but we'll see.
GORANI: Well, in fact that's a perfect segue for our next live report, because we're going to Russia -- thanks very much Sara Murray. Frederik --
Fred Pleitgen joins me now from Moscow. For some reason someone wrote Frederik there in my script -- that is your name but we don't call you
So as Sara Murray was saying she'll probably get a hero's welcome, Maria Butina -- is that what you're hearing?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that could highly likely be the case, Hala. Especially the Russian foreign
minister really has been championing the cause of Maria Butina's -- they even have Maria Butina's picture up on their Twitter feed as their sort of
main picture on the official Russian Twitter feed of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
So it's no surprise that there were some harsh reactions coming from the Russian Foreign Ministry, it was actually literally just a couple of
minutes ago that we got a statement from the spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova, literally just got this, so I want to just read
you the first, sort of two paragraphs of it.
It says that, "we view the decision of a Washington, D.C. court to sentence Maria Butina to 18 months in prison as politically motivated from the
moment of her arrest we've been pointing out that the accusations of her intentions to influence the domestic political processes in America are of
completely far-fetched and fabricated nature."
So essentially what they're saying -- they believe this is a politically motivated trial. It was interesting because they also -- Maria Zakharova
also here says she, believes that the plea deal, that of course Maria Butina signed on to -- that that was done essentially by force because the
prison conditions that she was under were so harsh.
And then there's one sentence in there Hala that sort of seems to be the main thing that the Russians are trying to get across is they are trying to
say that they believe that Maria Butina is in the situation right now -- had this trial, had these accusation -- and now is being convicted because
she is a Russian in Germany -- sorry, in the United States, not because she did anything wrong.
So they're saying they believe all this is politically motivated, it's quite interesting because as another senior Russian politician, the head of
the Foreign Relations Committee of the Russian Senate, Konstantin Kosachev who essentially said the same thing -- saying he also believed that she was
essentially in a situation right now because she's a Russian in the United States.
He also used of course some of the words that President Trump has been using for the Mueller investigation saying that he believes that the case
against Maria Butina is essentially what he calls a witch hunt, Hala.
GORANI: Right, so they fully expect as well that she will be deported at the end of her sentence, right? But what will her status be then, in
Russia when she returns?
PLEITGEN: Well I think -- I think that she will get a very warm welcome by the Russian authorities, that's something that already seems to be
indicated -- her father has been quite public saying he can't wait for her to come home.
He was saying on various Russian media channels over the past couple of weeks, months, and especially over the last couple of days that he was
hoping that she would be back home in the next three to four days. So already sort of putting that narrative out there hoping that she would be
released, hoping that there would be some sort of mercy on the part of the United States court.
So we do expect that she'll get a very warm welcome, whether or not it'll be the same as sort of Anna Chapman got when she got back is unclear. But
certainly all the indications that we're getting right now is that the messaging that's coming out of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
It's coming out of the Russian government is that they believe all this was politically motivated, she never should have been in that situation, she
was unfairly treated by United States authorities and therefore she will get a very warm welcome -- not necessarily a hero's welcome, but certainly
a very warm welcome when she comes back here to Russia, Hala.
GORANI: All right, Fred Pleitgen thanks very much -- live in Moscow.
And more to come tonight including this chimp -- this is just absolutely remarkable. This chimp has traded in swinging through the trees for
swiping on Instagram, mastering the app in a way I have never seen an animal do. We're going to bring you more on this video that's gone viral
after a quick break, stay with us.
GORANI: Instagram apparently is so easy even a chimpanzee can do it. I don't want to insult the chimpanzees they are so smart, and this is just
more proof of how humanlike they are. One chimp went viral after he mastered the photo sharing app.
Jeanne Moos, who else, has the details.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JEANNE MOOS: It's the next best thing to a banana, Instagram on an iPhone -- this chimp's gone viral for doing what we all do -- swipe and scroll.
And just like us, what's his favorite thing to look at?
MIKE HOLSTON: Oh, that's you.
MOOS: Himself. The video was shot by Mike Holston who calls himself "the real Tarzan." A guy who seems tickled to interact with any animal.
HOLSTON: I know your tickle spot.
MOOS: Sharing the joy of snakes with the kids of Sean "Diddy" Combs --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN "DIDDY COMBS: You know, black people we've never had a Tarzan.
JIMMY KIMMEL: You haven't had a Tarzan.
COMBS: We have one now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: But a chimp named Sagriva (ph) is the star of this video with his oh so savvy touch screen technique. "I work at a wireless store and I have
customer who can't do this," RedOne (ph) comment. "The fact that he knows to swipe backwards to return to the album is what blows my mind."
He didn't seem to have much tolerance for snakes, Mike says he even knows how to FaceTime.
HOLSTON: You're calling Uncle Chuck.
MOOS: Other species have toyed with devices like Peter the elephant playing drums on this Galaxy Note for a Samsung ad, sketching with a stylus
and swiping. At the Houston Zoo iPads are used for enrichment, to keep the chimps from being bored.
In the span of a week we've had two gorillas pose in an African park rangers selfie, and now a chimp -- not just monkeying around with a phone,
but truly working it, as someone tweeted along with a gif from "Planet of the Apes," "it has begun."
Oh, it's begun all right planet of the apps.
But instead of making war, make love -- today Instagram, tomorrow he'll be in Tinder.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GORANI: I mean, it's cute and everything but we know what these screens do to our brains and kids brains. I don't know, maybe we should leave these
animals alone -- though I have to say I was absolutely mesmerized with that chimp and how he could figure out how to open up a picture and then scroll
down, and swipe down on the rest of it. And you might remember also that selfie with those two gorillas as well that were mimicking their keepers --
And thanks for watching, all of you around the world. I'm Hala Gorani, we're going to have a lot more on CNN. After a quick break it'll be "Quest
Means Business" with all your latest business news and there'll be a lot more of course of CNN's exclusive reporting on those court filings in the
case of that mass execution a few days ago. We'll be right back.