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Apparent Suicide of Jeffrey Epstein under Investigation; Pro- Democracy Activists Gather in Hong Kong's Victoria Park; Oslo Mosque Attack; Storms Slam Western Pacific and Southern Asia. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2019 - 03:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Public and political outrage growing over the death of convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, victims demanding justice as questions remain about why he was taken off suicide watch.

Separatists in Yemen seize the presidential palace in the south in Aden, fracturing its pro-government coalition.

Plus, we are live in Hong Kong, where new protests are underway and marchers prepare to defy a police ban.

We are live from the CNN Center this hour here in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier, it is great to have you with us.


VANIER: The death of a multimillionaire accused of sex trafficking has prompted a federal investigation. Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his cell Saturday morning. He died a short time later. Prison officials called it an apparent suicide. One person says Epstein's death deprives his accusers of the opportunity to face him in court.

Polo Sandoval takes a look at the search for answers.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The millionaire financier turned convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein had been held in Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest in early July. He pleaded not guilty to federal charges after prosecutors accused him of sex trafficking dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14.

His request to await trial at his Upper East Side mansion was denied and he was ordered to stay at the federal facility. Prison officials say Epstein was found dead in his cell early Saturday morning, shocking news for Epstein's accusers, who have continued to speak out in the more than a month since his arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did Jeffrey Epstein rape you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he raped me.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Jennifer Araoz, who told NBC enjoyed that Jeffrey Epstein had raped when she was a minor his New York mansion, told CNN she was angry at news of his death.

"I'm angry that Jeffrey Epstein will not have to face the survivors of his abuse in court. We have to live with the scars of his actions for the rest of our lives while he will never face the consequences of the crimes he committed."

An attorney for Epstein called for an investigation into Epstein's death and released a personal statement to CNN, blaming politicians, prosecutors, judges, the press, plaintiffs, lawyers and jail workers for Epstein's death.

"All these actors appear to bear some responsibility for his calamity. All seem to have a share Mr. Epstein's blood on their hands. All should be ashamed of their behavior."

Epstein's death comes less than 24 hours after thousands of pages of revealing documents were unsealed in the case from an Epstein accuser against one of his former associates. The 2015 defamation suit was filed by Virginia Giuffre, who says she was underage with Epstein kept her as a sex slave for years, flying her around the world to have sex with powerful men.

Among the men she claimed she was trafficked to have sex with was Prince Andrew in 2001. A Buckingham Palace spokesperson denies her claims. In response, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace says, "This relates to proceedings in the United States to which the Duke of York is not a party. Any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors is categorically untrue."

After getting news of Epstein's death, Giuffre's attorney tells CNN, "The reckoning of accountability begun by the voices of brave and truthful victims should not end with Jeffrey Epstein's cowardly and shameful suicide.

"We are hopeful that the government will continue to investigate and will focus on those who participated and facilitated Epstein's horrifying sex trafficking scheme that damaged so many."

This was not Epstein's first experience behind bars. He struck a controversial deal with Florida prosecutors to avoid federal charges in 2007 and, the following year, he pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges, spending just 13 months in custody.

He got work release privileges, allowing him to go to his office 12 hours a day, six days a week. Epstein's legal team argued the plea deal was the reason Epstein should not be prosecuted in New York -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.


VANIER: Many credit "The Miami Herald" reporter Julie Brown for the current charges against Jeffrey Epstein. She began investigating him back in 2017 and she simply refused to stop chasing the story until his accusers found justice.

My colleague Ana Cabrera spoke with Brown about the timing of Epstein's death and the release this week of hundreds of pages of incriminating documents.


JULIE BROWN, "THE MIAMI HERALD": I don't think anything in this case is a coincidence. I think everything that's happened happened in the order -- and as the evidence came out. I'm sure that he could feel things kind of closing in around him. He had known --


BROWN: -- I'm sure, for quite a while that the release of these documents was imminent and, you know, that they were going to be pretty brutal and they were. I mean, they are.

They tell a story about his sex trafficking operation and how he and other people really went out of their way to prey upon vulnerable girls and young women for years and, you know, so, I think that -- I'm sure that he felt like this was going to be a really hard one to beat.


VANIER: Joining me is Selma De Jesus-Zayas, a former chief of psychology services at the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Doctor, this was your line of work, so start by telling us what you thought when you saw the news that Jeffrey Epstein has committed suicide.

SELMA DE JESUS-ZAYAS, PSYCHOLOGIST: My first reaction was very emotional. I felt very sorry for the victims who will not be able to have their day in court and face him.

I also felt very concerned for the psychologist, who I know, the psychologist who ultimately made the decision to remove him from suicide watch. That person is going to be under a lot of scrutiny and the Bureau of Prisons will be conducting an internal investigation they will be very thorough.

And I understand that other outside agencies will be conducting their own investigations as well. So my heart also goes out to the psychologist.

VANIER: So tell us a little bit more about how suicide watch works because much has been made of the fact that Jeffrey Epstein had been found with marks on his neck, he had been on suicide watch for several days, so the prison must have known he might be at risk of committing suicide. And yet this happened.

How does the system work in general?

DE JESUS-ZAYAS: Absolutely. Let me begin by saying that the Bureau of Prisons has one of the most comprehensive suicide prevention programs in the nation and possibly in the world.

And it takes to suicide prevention extremely seriously and it is not just when an inmate indicates that they have suicidal tendencies that staff will intervene. Intervention begins the moment that inmate sets foot into our facilities.

And oftentimes even before they arrive at our facilities, we might have the marshal of services or other agencies reporting to us or informing the bureau ahead of time, that an inmate might have suicidal tendencies and needs special attention.

But assuming we do not get that information ahead of time, every single inmate is assessed by bureau staff within 24 hours to determine whether or not they might be at risk of committing suicide.

VANIER: But if we consider -- let me jump in for a second. If we consider Jeffrey Epstein's case, it was July 23rd that he was put on suicide watch. So that is my point and that is what stands out to a lot of people.

The prison facility knew that he had, at some point, either tried to take his life or he appeared to represent -- he was a risk -- at risk of trying to take his life. They knew that. And on July 23rd they put him on suicide watch and then they ended the suicide watch. That is what I think people want answers to.

DE JESUS-ZAYAS: When an inmate is placed on suicide watch, the moment they're placed on suicide watch, there's also criteria that is implemented to determine when they will be released from suicide watch.

For example, if an inmate is suicidal and was reporting hallucinations or reporting depressed mood, criteria might include no more hallucinations, reports that they're no longer (INAUDIBLE), is willing to take medication, has shown improvements in hygiene.

Again, I cannot speak to (INAUDIBLE) but in general, these are criteria that are implemented in order to determine when the inmate can be released from suicide watch.

VANIER: OK. So there are observable, objective criteria that have to be met and one would assume that they were met in this case. And again, one would assume; we don't have the facts.

DE JESUS-ZAYAS: One would assume.

VANIER: And that would explain why he was taken off suicide watch. One last thing. You mentioned the victims when we started talking, this might be outside of your purview but what can you tell us about the potential psychological impact for the victims of Jeffrey Epstein?

DE JESUS-ZAYAS: Oh, I can just imagine the anger, the resentment, the unfinished business, (INAUDIBLE) closure to the whole segment which -- I think it will continue. The case will go on. But he was the primary focus and to not have him around must be devastating for the victims. I feel bad for them. [03:10:00]

VANIER: Yes. Dr. Selma De Jesus-Zayas, thank you so much for your important insight into this today.

DE JESUS-ZAYAS: Thank you.

VANIER: The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it has attacked what it described as a direct threat after armed separatists captured the presidential palace in Aden. Aden is home to the internationally recognized government backed by Saudi Arabia. It was ousted from the capital, Sanaa, in 2015.

According to Reuters, the separatists have agreed to calls for an immediate cease-fire by the Saudi-led coalition. Riyadh is demanding the separatists withdraw from government-held positions seized in recent fighting. CNN Sam Kiley is covering the story for us from Abu Dhabi.

Sam, as far as you can make out, what will be the impact of this on the larger war in Yemen?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it could be catastrophic in terms of the humanitarian situation, Cyril. Aden, a relatively small port, is the means through which almost all imports except for some humanitarian aid that goes in through Hudaydah gets into Yemen, particularly the very important commercial lifeblood.

And this is a country where up to 20 million people are going to be reliant on food aid of some kind, mostly coming from the United Nations. It has a steady state in peacetime of some million-plus people who rely on aid. So it is a deeply poverty-stricken country, riven by civil war. We always talk, Cyril, about the war between the Iranian-backed Houthis in the north and the coalition in the south, which is now breaking apart.

But of course, over towards the border with Oman, there is also an ongoing war against Al Qaeda and elements of the so-called Islamic State, so adding another level of conflict here, Cyril, is going to be potentially catastrophic unless they get it under control and very rapidly.

VANIER: And Sam, it is worth noting, that it has always been, since the beginning, an uneasy alliance between the separatists in southern Yemen and the rest of this Saudi-led coalition.

KILEY: Yes, I mean, you put your finger on it there, Cyril, to break it down in the most simple terms, you have the separatists in the south themselves fairly fractious but the dominant one is the Southern Transitional Council that have been blamed for the latest uprising.

They historically have been backed by the United Arab Emirates. They are fighting at the moment, it would appear, to somehow depose or restrict the activities of the government, led by President Hadi. He is in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis, who are on the same side as the UAE in all of this, back a group called Islah, which, accurately or not, is often associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and it is that element within the Hadi coalition that seems to be provoking the southerners into an attack.

But ultimately the southern agenda is, among at least part of them, complete secession or separation from the wider Yemeni structure. So as you say there, it is an inherently unstable coalition. And I know that the United Arab Emirates who control the security or up until recently controlled the security around the presidential palace and the very important port area of Aden have been almost silent through this process.

Because they have been trying over the last couple of months to wind down their role in this whole farrago of the Yemeni civil war, not least because they perceive a more immediate threat strategically coming from Iran.

VANIER: That is Sam Kiley reporting on, this monitoring this from Abu Dhabi at the moment. Thank you very much.

There was bloodshed in Libya as well on Saturday. The U.N. says at least three of its staff are dead after a car bomb exploded in Benghazi. Three U.N. personnel were wounded along with what the U.N. called scores of Libyans.

The blast came amid talk of a cease-fire between Libya's so-called government of national accord and renegade general Khalifa Haftar. The truce was supposed to last through the Eid al-Adha holiday.

U.S. president Trump is teasing another meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Mr. Kim for his part keeps firing missiles. North Korean state media report that he oversaw the launch of a new weapon Saturday and released pictures to prove it.

President Trump was on Twitter Saturday, praising the North Korean leader and criticizing joint military drills with the longtime U.S. ally.

He wrote the North Korean leader sent him a very nice letter and wants to meet as soon as "ridiculous and expensive" -- that is a direct quote -- "ridiculous and expensive exercises" with South Korea end. Mr. Trump also says that Mr. Kim apologized for missile tests and he looks forward to seeing the dictator in the --


VANIER: -- not too distant future.

Even after 10 straight weekends, Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement keeps gaining momentum. Right now thousands of people are gathering in the city's most popular public park. It follows a night of clashes between police and protesters.

Meanwhile, a three-day sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport continues and more marches and demonstrations are planned throughout the day Sunday. Ben Wedeman is in Victoria Park with the protesters.

Ben, what is it like right now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is very hot, very humid and very crowded here in Victoria Park. There are several thousand people here. This is one of two protests, rallies planned for Sunday.

But this is the only one that actually received a permit from the authorities. However, some of the protesters here plan to march from this park. And that march has not received permission.

And as you mentioned, meanwhile, the sit-in at the airport is into its third day and that really has been the focus of this weekend, the 10th consecutive weekend of protests. There, the advantage is, of course, that at the airport, there is air conditioning and there is shade and think a lot of people are going out there in addition to those who have come here.

Now these protests began in June against this extradition bill that has been declared officially dead by Carrie Lam, the chief executive. But it has not been officially suspended.

The protest movement managed to get that achieved. But really since then, they have not been able to get the Hong Kong government to budge on any of its other demands -- Cyril.

VANIER: Ben, three months of protests in this place that is known for stability, for efficiency, for its pro-business environment, it is starting to have an impact on the economy. Tell us about that.

WEDEMAN: There is no question about it. This is not the image of Hong Kong that the world is accustomed to. We understand that tourism, for instance, has fallen 31 percent compared to the numbers a year ago.

In June, the retail sales were down 6.7 percent and investment is at its lowest level in the last 10 years. So certainly it does have an impact. But despite the economic impact what we have seen is that the numbers of people participating consistently in these protests has not significantly come down.

Of course, back in June, you saw these massive protests, more than 1 million people, for instance. But nonetheless, despite the economic impact, a cross section of Hong Kong society is consistently coming out to these protests.

Looking around me, there are people of all ages here, people who are engaged in every aspect of business and commerce here in Hong Kong. So there is a section of the population -- obviously the corporate giants are very concerned about the economic impact but I think many of these people are putting their future above their immediate material interest.

VANIER: Ben Wedeman reporting live from Victoria Park in Hong Kong, where people are gathered, a large gathering already. And we will keep monitoring that throughout the day. Ben, thank you. Demands for free and fair elections are not being stopped by riot police in Moscow. Coming, up the latest as demonstrations hit their fifth straight weekend.

Plus, a deadly storm ravages part of China in a series of extreme weather events recently hitting the Western Pacific and Southern Asia. We will have more on that.





VANIER: Tens of thousands of people hit the streets of Moscow Saturday to demand free and fair local elections.

It is the fifth straight weekend for the protests. A monitoring group says hundreds of people were arrested and some 50,000 people rallied in the Russian capital. This is being called one of the country's biggest political protests in years and demonstrators are demanding independent candidates in Moscow elections.

Many are also fed up with corruption and the policies of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

A 75-year-old man in Norway is being seen as a hero after police say he overwhelmed the gunman at an Oslo mosque. The suspected shooter has been charged with attempted murder.

Witnesses say the 20-year-old Norwegian man broke through the building's locked glass doors and began shooting. That is when the worshipper was able to grab him in a chokehold until police arrived. Later, police found a woman's body in the suspect's home. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz picks up the story from there.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN PRODUCER: Another worrying development in the tragic shooting of a mosque in Oslo. Police recovered the body of a young woman inside the suspect's home. She is believed to be related to the suspect but investigations are still underway.

At about 4:00 pm local time, a young white man, a Norwegian citizen according to authorities, entered the mosque. Authorities say he was wearing all black, had on a bulletproof vest and was carrying a shotgun-like weapon and a pistol.

An altercation ensued between worshippers and him inside. A 75-year- old man was slightly injured but ultimately, worshippers were able to overpower the shooter and stop him before police arrived. Police took him into custody and found multiple weapons at the scene.

RUNE SKJOLD, ASSISTANT POLICE CHIEF: I was called by one person who told us that and we called for police units and when they came to the mosque, some people in the mosque had taken care of this person and we have him in our custody tonight.

ABDELAZIZ: This very mosque had recently increased its own security measures after the Christchurch terror attacks earlier this year. These attacks resulted in more than 50 people dead after two mosques were attacked in New Zealand.

All of this takes place as Muslims prepare to celebrate Eid ul Adha, the most important Muslim holiday of the year. The Al Noor Islamic Center, the one that was attacked, had a festival scheduled for Eid scheduled on Sunday. Some 1,000 people were supposed to gather and celebrate.

But all of this now thrown into question as the community deals with this tragedy -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.


VANIER: The devastation in eastern China where the death toll has risen to 32 people killed by what was typhoon Lekima. It has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, leaving destruction and heartbreak in its wake.


VANIER (voice-over): As powerful floodwaters surge around, a woman trapped in her home is pulled to safety. It is another dramatic rescue in eastern China, where emergency crews are searching for stranded survivors in the aftermath of a deadly typhoon.

As Lekima made landfall Saturday morning south of Shanghai, ominous skies signaled a catastrophic storm. More than 1 million people were evacuated, over 1,000 flights canceled and those in rural areas were told to prepare.

Soon after, the typhoon's torrential rains submerged entire villages, then triggered a deadly landslide that swept through parts of China's Zhejiang province, cutting electricity to millions and ravaging land, cars and property, often with people still inside.

Now emergency crews battle --


VANIER (voice-over): -- to keep any more from dying, saving those trapped beneath rubble and vehicles flooded with water or unable to leave their homes. China's state run news agency reports that Lekima is the ninth typhoon this year and the fourth in the past several days.

It follows an increase in storms and weather systems across the region in recent weeks, from typhoons in the Western Pacific to deadly monsoon rains in southern Asia. In India, recent floods have reportedly killed dozens and displaced hundreds of thousands across the country. In Myanmar, a landslide buried a village in the east of the country

after days of heavy rains. Rescue workers are now scrambling to find survivors as they pull bodies from the mud. Beneath the rubble, some have lost everything. One woman says her home disappeared in the landslide, with all nine of her family members inside.


VANIER: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. We will get the headlines for you in just a moment. Stay with CNN.