Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Ethiopia Atrocities Would Constitute Violation of U.S. Trade Agreement; U.S. Says It Will Review in 2022; Alleged Nazi Concentration Camp Guard to Face Trial; U.K. Court: Dubai Ruler Hacked Ex-Wife's Phone Using Spyware; Dodgers Walk It Off for Wild Card Win. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 07, 2021 - 04:30   ET




SOARES (on camera): Well, in a statement, the environmental ministry tells us it has suspended agricultural fires from July to October. After the picture you just saw there, well that's from mid-September. And as you saw those fires keep on raging. Now the environment ministry has also claimed in a statement it's allocating more money and hiring for firefighters to combat and prevent fight fires.

However, this comments really don't give you the full picture. The Bolsonaro government has taken multiple steps to reduce the overall budgets for the environmental ministry. So, these recent investments they're talking about really only brings spending back to roughly what it was before he took office. So, context is important here.

Next right here on CNN NEWSROOM, an exclusive report on the role that Ethiopia's flagship commercial airline has played in the brutal civil war in the Tigray region. Nima Elbagir joins us next.


SOARES: Welcome back everyone. Now Ethiopia has four decades been the beneficiary of a U.S. government trade agreements with hundreds of millions of dollars of stable access to U.S. markets allowing Ethiopian airlines in recent years to build really a global fleet and become one of the world's leading airlines. For both the U.S. and Ethiopia, this relationship matters. But for almost a year now, conflict is raging in Ethiopia's Tigray region. Numerous CNN investigations have uncovered evidence of Ethiopian government atrocities. CNN has now found evidence that Ethiopian airlines cargo carriers have been shuffling weapons between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In what experts believe may constitute a violation of international law and that trade agreement with the U.S. Here's Nima Elbagir.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With direct flights from over 95 international destinations, fly Ethiopian Airlines, the new spirit of Africa, Star Alliance member.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): State owned Ethiopian Airlines is Africa's premier carrier of passenger and freight traffic. But among the regular cargo, evidence of sinister shipments. CNN can reveal based on documentary evidence and witnesses accounts, Ethiopian Airlines has been transporting weapons between Ethiopia and Eritrea since the beginning of the war in Ethiopia that has seen thousands killed. According to aviation experts, this would constitute a violation of aviation law.

Among the evidence are these stills that were taken onboard Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 3313 and verified by CNN. It's the middle of the night. This cargo plane is being loaded by hand, a slow and unorthodox method. But look closer. This isn't usual cargo. Inside these boxes are mortars. They are being loaded onto this civilian aircraft and transported from Eritrea to Ethiopia. Here is the cargo manifest corroborating the day and time November 8, 2020. The date is significant. It's just four days into the conflict and months before Eritrea officially admits to being involved.

Ethiopia has been at war with the Tigray regional government, the Tigray People's Liberation Front, for almost a year. Eritrea to the North has become the Ethiopian government's ally against the region of Tigray. An unusual alliance as the countries were previously at war with each other. Now they have a common enemy, Tigray, and they are sharing weaponry.

ELBAGIR: CNN, CNN, we're CNN. Journalists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's impossible.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): CNN has been reporting on atrocities in Ethiopia since the beginning of the year.

ELBAGIR: If you want to have detained a CNN team, then that's what's happened out, because we're not going to the camp willingly.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): We traveled to Tigray last April and saw for ourselves, Eritrean troops manning checkpoints with impunity, while the Ethiopian government denied their presence on the ground. That relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea began months earlier in November 2020, which coincided with an increase in the movement of weapons shuttled back and forth from the Ethiopian capital to Eritrea. During the same month, there was also a series of massacres in the region of Tigray.

An Ethiopian Airlines employee turned whistleblower spoke to CNN about how he had to deal with an unusual request.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated text): The plane was carrying perishable goods, I had to deal with my bosses to unload some of the goods and load the weapons.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): In various statements, Ethiopian Airlines has always adamantly denied ferrying arms on passenger or cargo planes. But in addition to speaking with whistleblowers, verifying cargo manifests and authenticating stills, CNN has obtained airway bill receipts that show at least six occasions in November, where Ethiopian Airlines billed the Ethiopian Ministry of Defense to ship military items, including guns and ammunition to Eritrea.

MICHAEL A. RAYNOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ETHIOPIA: In the end, the success of Ethiopian Airlines is an important and impressive symbol of the limitless potential of the U.S.-Ethiopian partnership.

ELBAGIR (voice-over): Ethiopian Airlines built its cargo dominance the relationship with the U.S. government and American aviation giant Boeing. These new CNN findings together with previous investigations into atrocities committed by Ethiopian forces would constitute violations of international law, according to aviation experts and run contrary to the terms of that relationship with the U.S. government. Whether this forces the U.S. to act responsibly against the Ethiopian government remains to be seen.


SOARES: Now, a response to the CNN's latest investigation, Ethiopian Airlines said it complies with all aviation regulations. And quote, to the best of its knowledge and its record, it has not transported any war armament in any of its routes by any of its aircraft. That was a statement for U.S. trade spokesman told CNN they would review illegibility for the U.S. African growth and opportunity act next year.

Which will be based, quote, upon compliance and standards that include adherence to internationally recognized workers' rights, rule of law, and human rights.

After the review, the U.S. trade representative could possibly recommend that the U.S. president at or remove certain countries from AGOA beneficiary country status.


Well, Aircraft manufacturer Boeing said they had no comment for this story and Ethiopian and Eritrean governments did not respond to requests for comment.

Nima Elbagir joins us now with more. And Nima, in reporting, exclusive reporting is so important. I know you've been covering the story for some time. Give us a sense of what the reaction has been from the U.S. to your exclusive reporting. And also give us more about what the comment has been from the U.S. trade representative. I mean, why are they waiting until 2022 to review this?

ELBAGIR: That is the question. And we had previously reached out to the U.S. trade representative on our previous reporting. And that constitution of violations of AGOA. And didn't receive any comments. At least this time, we have received comment.

There's a lot of concern from U.S. lawmakers speaking to us -- especially after this latest reporting -- saying that the White House needs to cut short this grace period that they have been extended on and on. Even last week, when they came out with that -- or a few weeks ago, when they came out with the White House executive order threatening sanctions against Ethiopia. Again, they said they were hoping Ethiopia would resolve it itself. Even those within the U.S. Congress no longer believe that that will happen. So, it'll be interesting to see where they go from here -- Isa.

SOARES: Nima Elbagir for us in London. Thank you so much for that exclusive reporting. If you want to know more about it about CNN's exclusive investigation due to go to and follow Nima on Twitter, she updates all the latest on this stories -- on Ethiopian story and Tigray @NimaElbagir.

Now, to Germany, really, where a trial is about to get under way involving a man who allegedly served as a Nazi guard during World War II. The identity of the 100-year-old suspect has not been revealed. But he's accused of aiding and abetting more than 3,500 murders at the concentration camp north of Berlin.

Fred Pleitgen is live for us at the German capital with more. And Fred, what more do we know about this man, and at this stage, I suspect, will he even serve any -- the trial leads to a sentence?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's certainly has been deemed to stand trial -- fit to stand trial, Isa. There's really very little that's known about the identity of this gentleman. Obviously, one of the reasons is that you know, because of his age, they have kept the identity in secret. But we do know that the authorities believe that he was a prison camp guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which is just north of Berlin, in the time frame from 1942 to 1945. And that within that time frame, there were, obviously, severe human rights abuses. And also, of course, extrajudicial killings that happened there as well.

Now all of that -- and this is something that's within those more than the 3,500 cases for which he is on trial -- there's talk of obviously, shootings, a summary executions. Killings with the poison gas, Sachsenhausen concentration camp, even though it was a hard force labor camp also did have a gas chamber from a certain point as well.

And of course, this trial is one that is very important here in Germany. It was for a very long time. But especially some of the lower-level officials that worked at these concentration camps that were there as guards, or for instance, the people who worked in offices were not put on trial for a long time. It's only fairly recently this has started.

Now of course, we've mentioned the gentleman is 100 years old and it is a really big deal of course for many of those survivors who are out there, but also the relatives of people who survived that. To get that kind of closure, to see people like that put-on trial.

Now he has been deemed fit to stand trial. However, because of his age, it's only 2 1/2 hours each day that he's able to stand on trial. And then that of course is something that is going to be going on full well. Because of course, there is a lot of documentation, a lot of evidence that needs to be looked through. A big trial here in Germany. And one where the Germans really are trying to help out with this effort to bring people who were part of the Nazi regime to justice -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, closure is indeed needed. Fred Pleitgen do keep us posted, thanks, Fred.

SOARES: Coming up, spyware used in a custody case. The lengths -- one U.K. juror says -- the ruler of Dubai went to keep tabs on his ex- wife. That is next.



SOARES: Now, England's high court says the ruler of Dubai has gone to extreme lengths to monitor his ex-wife during a bitter custody battle. A judge says he ordered spyware to be used to hack Princess Haya's phone. CNN's Nina dos Santos joins me live from London with more. And Nina, talk us through the findings here and what this means for Sheikh Mohammed.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, these findings have only emerged after a yearlong court reporting restriction was eventually lifted on Wednesday. And as you point out, what they appear to show is that Sheikh Mohammed, according to one of highest courts in the land here in England targeted several mobile phones of his estranged wife, Princess Haya, the half-sister of King of Jordan with whom he's separating, as well as her legal team, her security advisors.

Even a member of the U.K.'s House of Lords, Baroness Fiona Shackleton, who is acting as Princess Haya's barrister in a long-running and increasingly acrimonious custody dispute over the two children that she and Sheikh Mohammed shared. Well, she fled here to the U.K. a couple years ago saying she had become increasingly concerned about the welfare of two daughters of Sheikh Mohammed by previous marriages. Who appeared to have been sent back to Dubai and were being held there under duress.

Now, the use of this particular spyware -- and it's not just the any spy ware -- it is the notorious NSO Israeli-made Pegasus software. Which has been linked to autocratic regimes to monitor human rights activists and journalists. This type of spyware being used on British soil potentially interfering with a high profile and sensitive legal case, raises real questions over Sheikh Mohammed and his relationship with the United Kingdom.

He's very much an establishment figure who has a love of horseracing. He's often seen with the Queen at big events. And the UAE is a vital ally of the United Kingdom in the Middle East. It's recently cemented a multibillion business partnership with the U.K. government. So, these are real concerns here about the lengths to which Sheikh Mohammed appears to be willing to go to exert control over some female members of his family. And also, the use of spyware, as I said, in this case will be extremely concerning for the government and also for the criminal justice system too -- isa.

SOARES: Important context from out Nina dos Santos in London. Thanks, Nina.

And just ahead right here in CNN NEWSROOM, it's win or go home. The Dodgers and Cardinals go down to the wire in baseball's National League wildcard game. That is next.



SOARES: Today's top shot are these Greenpeace activists who delivered a visual message -- you can see there, they're outside the Louvre on Wednesday. Black smoke pumped out of the mock oil rig in a protests of the Paris museum's partnership with the oil giant TotalEnergies. A banner over the Louvre's facade announced Total's regular financing of exhibits. Greenpeace claims the company is using a form of cultural diplomacy to advance its oil and fossil fuel projects.

Now, authorities in California believe they found the source of the damaging oil spill but not necessarily the cause. A split about the size of human foot in an undersea pipe has spewed about 143,000 gallons, or 545,000 leaders of crude, into the Pacific Ocean. Preliminary reports say the pipe could have been snagged by a ship's anchor.

And the latest on the volcano still erupting in the Canary Islands. The La Palma airport is now closed due to a cloud of volcanic ash. The islands volcano has been erupting for nearly three weeks straight with no end in sight. Authorities say other airports in the Canary Islands are still open to travelers.


Now the reigning world series champions escape to close call and baseball's wildcard game. Here's our Patrick Snell with a minute in sports -- Patrick.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Isa, thank you. We saw it with major league baseball on Wednesday night, all eyes on World Series champs the L.A. Dodgers and the National League wildcard clash with the St. Louis Cardinals. Bottom of the ninth, final out and just look what happens next. The Dodgers with a with a walk-off home run homer, Chris Taylor stepping up to the plate with a massive move. The 31-year-old now the first player in Dodgers history to hit a walk-off home run in a winner take all postseason game.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's National Women's Soccer League did go ahead. And really emotional and impactful way too. Last weekend's games called off following reports by the athletic detailing allegations of sexual coercion and misconduct against former North Carolina Courage head coach, Paul Riley -- who denies the allegations. The Courage returning with a 3-1 victory against Louisville. The footballers there stopping play in the sixth minute. The League Players Association choosing the six minute in honor of the six years it took for all those who fought for too long to be heard.

To Europe, we're on the men's side, Spain have ended Italy's 37th match world record unbeaten. La Roja threw to the UEFA nation's legal final. Beating the 2-1 in Milan, thanks to two fine strikes from the Manchester City star Ferran Torres. Isa, and with that it's right back to you this Thursday.

SOARES: sThanks very much. That does it for us. I'm Isa Soares, "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett is next. With more, of course, on the January 6th subpoenas. You are watching CNN and I shall see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.