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Death of Mahsa Amini; Search for the Missing in Flood-Ravaged Libya; Kim Tours Military Sites with Russian Defense Minister; Judge Issues Restraining Order on Luis Rubiales; Famed Artist Fernando Botero Dies at 91. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2023 - 03:00   ET




LAILA HARRAK, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to all of our viewers watching from all around the world. I'm Laila Harrak. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

An anniversary of grief and defiance in Iran, the country ramping up security as the world marks one year since Mahsa Amini died in police custody, sparking months of protest.

Kim's Russia tour wraps up. The North Korean leader spending his final day in Russia's far east visiting military sites, accompanied by the Russian defense minister.

And more fallout for Spanish football. Former boss Luis Rubiales handed a restraining order over his World Cup kiss scandal. But players say more changes are needed before they will return to the pitch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Laila Harrak.

HARRAK: Today marks one year since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini and the start of an Iranian protest movement that was brutally crushed by authorities. Amini died in the custody of Iran's morality police, after she was detained for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly.

On Friday, the U.S. and other countries marked the anniversary by announcing a raft of new sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities. Demonstrations went on for months after Amini's death.

But over time, protests were viciously suppressed with hundreds killed and thousands detained. Iran has reportedly increased security measures ahead of the anniversary but rallies to honor Mahsa Amini are planned in several international cities.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HARRAK: Maziar Bahari is a publisher for the pro-reform news outlet IranWire. He joins us live via Skype from London.

A very warm welcome. A very somber anniversary a year on.

What has Mahsa Amini's death in police custody changed inside Iran and what has it revealed about Iranian society?

MAZIAR BAHARI, PUBLISHER, IRANWIRE: I think Mahsa Amini's death and the protests that followed her death really showed the potential of Iranian women for change, to themselves and also to the regime.

As a result, we see that this time around, the government is not really trying to appease and plan to address people's needs. On the contrary, the government, the regime, the Revolutionary Guards, the police, the military have been preparing themselves to stop the protests from happening again.

Since a few months ago, I had a chat with a friend of mine -- a couple of friends in Iran this morning and they are saying that the police, the Revolutionary Guards, plainclothes officers, the paramilitary are everywhere in order to stop people from coming to the streets.

But on the other hand, we see that people, trying to lead a normal life. In fact, what's the legacy of Mahsa Amini's death and the protests is this aspiration to lead a normal life. Leading a normal life, not wearing your hijab, talking to whoever you want to, studying whatever you want to, doing whatever you want to is a revolutionary act in Iran.

Women, when I talk to my friends in Iran, they are saying that almost five out of 10 women in Iran are not wearing the veil anymore. And the police do not have the resources to stop them. So their legacy is really multilayered.

HARRAK: I want to pick up on, that because the protests have been brutally repressed but there are still women out there, today, resisting the dress code at great personal risk, showing great bravery.

But what is left of the protest movement?

How do Iranians view the situation?

BAHARI: It is a very complicated question, because the root causes of the protest have not gone away. The government is still very inefficient, very corrupt. It cannot address the people's basic needs.

People are disenchanted with the Islamic Republic government, especially the raisi administration that has become the most inefficient administration since the beginning of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

So people are still disenchanted and people want to express their anger against the government, especially young people. But many people are questioning. [03:05:00]

BAHARI: So even if this government changes tomorrow, what will happen then?

That is the question that many people cannot answer, especially opposition leaders and opposition figures.

And one of the saddest developments since last September is that people have become increasingly disenchanted and disappointed in the opposition leaders and opposition figures, who are mostly outside of Iran because they have had infighting.

They have had their own squabbles, they have had their own public arguments, which really cannot exude confidence for people.

HARRAK: Briefly if you can, in terms of international pressure, we have seen the United States among other countries have rolled out fresh sanctions against Iranian officials.

What leverage do these countries have?

BAHARI: There are two sets of sanctions. (INAUDIBLE) sanctions such as the ones that rolled out last week against individuals running prisons heads of Revolutionary Guards, because of those sanctions they cannot have houses or lives outside of Iran.

Those people are not like Russian oligarchs, who have villas in Spain or southern France. They live in Iran mostly, so the sanctions are really symbolic. But there are other sanctions that are not fully carried out.

Right now, we see many corrupt Iranians with ties to the regime, they have very good lives in Toronto, in Vancouver, in London, in Dubai.

And for whatever reason, the local governments do not pay attention to these local, to these corrupt officials with the ties to the Iranian government, corrupt businessmen and women who are bankrolling the government. So I think that it is good to have symbolic sanctions. But there are good sanctions in place that are not carried out well.

HARRAK: IranWire publisher Maziar Bahari in London, thank you for joining us.

BAHARI: Thank you.


HARRAK: Emergency teams in eastern Libya are still searching for thousands of people who disappeared after catastrophic floods that hit the region. Aid workers and residents have been combing through the rubble of collapsed buildings for several days now. They say the destruction has been hard to fathom, with some areas damaged beyond repair.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sea is bright red, it's not even blue anymore with people and blood and buildings and everything. You all see the pictures, you see everything in the media, it's all there. But the smell, the smell, you are not going to see in the media. The smell is just -- the smell is horrible. I cannot even explain it.

AWAD ALSHALWY, TEACHER AND DERNA RESIDENT: There is a lot more to be done, the blame is not on the one country or one person, but they all have to face the consequences (INAUDIBLE).

I don't know, I am not a judge, I am not a politician, I am not a journalist. I'm an English teacher. I found myself doing (INAUDIBLE). But I don't know how you pay for over 40,000 dead.

What kind of crime is that?


HARRAK: Experts say the sheer scope of the devastation has made it difficult to determine the exact death toll. But the United Nations says there is no doubt about what caused the destruction.


MARTIN GRIFFITHS, U.N. UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: This is a tragedy in which climate and capacity has collided to cause this terrible, terrible tragedy.


HARRAK: The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is sending additional supplies, including 5,000 body bags, to ensure the dead are given a dignified burial.

The city of Derna has been the worst hit area by far. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is there and shows us how residents are responding to the disaster.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a storm like no other Libyans had ever seen before. But it's not only Mother Nature's wrath that's to blame for these apocalyptic scenes in Derna.

KARADSHEH (on-camera): Right up there is where the dams were. When they burst, it unleashed all that water. The floods that swept entire neighborhoods like this into the sea. And you can see the force of the water when you look at buildings like this and you can see how high the waves were.

KARADSHEH (voice-over): Waves as high as 22 feet or seven meters submerged buildings and the current so strong destroyed almost everything in its path and washed it all into the sea. The Mediterranean turned into a graveyard for the people of Derna.

How many lives lost here? [03:10:00]

KARADSHEH (voice-over): No one really knows but it's in the thousands. The ones crystal clear blue waters now murky and brown tell the grim story of a city that once was of those gone young and old.

Children, a few months old, elderly people, pregnant women, they're in the sea, 21-year-old Abdel Wahab tells us. With nothing but a rope tied around his waist, he pulled 40 bodies on the first day, he says.

There are other bodies, we don't know how to get them out. We just don't have any equipment, he says. Derna's gone, you won't see it again.

They've gotten some help since. International support has been slowly trickling in but nowhere near enough to deal with a disaster on this scale.

It's mostly Libyans here, volunteers from every corner of this bitterly divided country, foes who fought each other for years, united in grief, doing what they can to mend the wounds of this broken city.

Most are here to try and give the dead a dignified end. It's not the time to lay blame for what happened, many say. But the dams had not been maintained for decades, residents say. Had they been, Derna and its people may still be standing.

Nearly a week on, emotions here still so raw. Tarek and his family climbed on top of the water tanks on their roof. They all survived but most of his neighbors did not.

There are 12 to 15 homes on our street. We lost 33 people, he tells us. He then starts to name the dead. Entire families gone. It's all just too much.

Libyans know loss and death all too well. But nothing could have prepared them for this -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Derna, Libya.


HARRAK: Fresh from his summit wth North Korea's Kim Jong-un, Russian president Vladimir Putin wasted no time, reaching out to his ally in neighboring Belarus, inviting President Alexander Lukashenko to Sochi for talks.

Russian state media said it was the seventh time this year the two leaders had met. Russia has been suffering losses recently in Crimea and southern Ukraine.

A Ukrainian commander said the devastated village of Andriivka has now been retaken after fierce fighting, opening what he said was a bridgehead for Ukraine's counteroffensive to advance.

Kyiv welcomes the lifting of restrictions on grain imports to some European neighbors. The European Commission imposed the restrictions earlier this year after some members complained that cheap Ukrainian grain was overwhelming their markets.

The E.U. has given Ukraine until Monday to present a plan to control those imports. Despite the E.U.'s action, at least three of those countries, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, are not satisfied and plan to impose their own restrictions.

CNN's Barbie Nadeau joins us now live from Rome with more.

Good morning, Barbie. A potential standoff is brewing over Ukrainian grain.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, good morning.

This is really not about punishing Ukraine per se. This is because these countries are very big grain producers themselves. Of course, Ukraine was one of the global leaders in the production of grain, exported grain. And that all has been curtailed in terms of how they get the grain out of the country.

It used to be through the Black Sea but now they have to go through land routes in Europe. What these countries want, is for the grain to be sold locally in their markets. So they are looking for the Ukraine to find a plan in which they will not inundate those markets, which would be punishing to the local farmers.

So this is much more about protecting the local farmers, who do not want the extra grain on the market, to manipulate the prices, than it is about punishing Ukraine.

HARRAK: I also understand, in a separate development, that Ukraine's president is expected to visit Washington next week.

NADEAU: That is right. He will be addressing the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. That is the same day President Biden will be presenting. The two leaders are expected to meet, though it is not clear whether it'll be on the sidelines of the meeting in New York or if it will be when Zelenskyy travels to Washington on Thursday.

He is not addressing a joint session of Congress; he is instead meeting the leaders. Of course, he has work to do there in terms of continuing support by the United States, especially the Republican Party ahead of the elections, who are getting a little battle weary in terms of supporting Ukraine.

HARRAK: All right. Barbie Nadeau, thanks for reporting.

North Korea's leader is in Vladivostok, Russia, for what is expected to be the last leg of his trip to the country's far east.


HARRAK: Russian state media reports that he toured a frigate from Russia's Pacific fleet with the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, a short time ago. They headed to the ship after visiting an airfield in the port city earlier.

As you can see, the Russians rolled out the red carpet for their guest. Marc Stewart is following developments from Beijing.

Hi, again, Marc; today a day full of symbolism.

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Laila. In fact, I was thinking, what we are seeing in Russia is very reminiscent of what we have seen in North Korea, these big military displays.

But again, the backdrop is Russia. We saw aKim Jong-un being surrounded by some very big names and figureheads in Russia, including the defense minister but also the commander of the Russian Navy.

He went to an airfield. He saw attack aircraft and also commercial aircraft and then some of the accessories and components that go with it. Also as you mentioned, he went to the waterway, to a port, where he saw a frigate as well as a weapons control system.

But in the spirit of symbolism, Kim Jong-un was given a model of a warship and wrote in a guest book of the Russian Navy. But it is not clear what that message was.

HARRAK: Let's talk a little bit more about the alliance that seems to be forging now between Russia and North Korea.

Does it have any true strength and what has been the global reaction?

STEWART: It is interesting; if you look at the global landscape right now, we have both North Korea and Russia very isolated, one because of their political policies of their own and also in part because of the war in Ukraine.

These are two nations that really could perhaps benefit from each other. If we look at some of the remarks by analysts, Russia needs munition and that's something that perhaps North Korea could provide.

North Korea, on the other hand, may be in need of more advanced technology. It could need money, food, something to come from Russia. Also worth pointing out, China, where I am, representatives from China and Russia recently made a venture togather to North Korea.

These are three nations that are isolated from the world but also have failed to condemn Russia for the war in Ukraine. So it is interesting to see this trifecta that has formed and perhaps any kind of political pull it could provide.

HARRAK: Marc Stewart reporting, thank you so much.

Despite the ongoing dangers in Ukraine, thousands of Jewsh pilgrims are traveling into the country to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. People from Israel and across the world gathered in the city of Uman to celebrate the life of rabbi Nachman (ph), the founder of a Hasidic movement.

He was buried in Uman in 1810. The pilgrims made the journey despite warnings from their governments not to travel to Ukraine during the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOSEPH LIBERMENSCH, PILGRIM FROM JERUSALEM: For us not to come to (INAUDIBLE), to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, it's more dangerous then missiles, than war, than everything else. We are not stupid. We are not stupid but we have (INAUDIBLE) said to come to him to celebrate the new year (INAUDIBLE) you should come to me, then we come. Our family to come to Uman is more than 100 year and no wars can stop us.


HARRAK: Rosh Hashanah marks the Jewish New Year, it is the first of the high holy days and ends at sunset on Sunday.

Still to come, a judge in Spain has handed down an order regarding that unwanted kiss at the World Cup by the country's ex football chief. We will have a report from Madrid on the decision and reaction from those involved.





HARRAK: Most of Spain's World Cup winning football players are refusing to play in two upcoming women's league matches, following the unwanted kiss controversy. More than 3 dozen women, including some 21 the championship squad, signed a joint letter condemning the royal Spanish football federation.

They wrote that it has not made enough structural changes to make the players feel they are in a safe and respected place and that women's football is supported.

On Friday, Spain postponed the announcement of the team lineup for the match. These developments come after ex Spanish soccer chief, Luis Rubiales' unwanted kiss on star player Jenni Hermoso following Spain's World Cup.

Meantime, a judge in Spain has now signed off on a restraining order against Rubiales. That is following a hearing in the country's national court Friday morning as the court investigates the unwanted kiss. Al Goodman has more now from Madrid.


AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The judge's restraining order against Rubiales to stay 200 meters or 650 feet away from Jennifer Hermoso was less than what the prosecution had asked for, 500 meters.

But the judge did grant the prosecution's request that he cannot contact her in any way during the investigation. The judge denying a request from Jennifer Hermoso's lawyer to protectively embargo Rubiales' assets during the investigation. Rubiales and his lawyer arrived about an hour before the midday court

hearing. And they did not say anything to the media on the way into the courthouse. After the hour-long hearing, did not say anything on the way out.

But the prosecution said in a statement that, in the courtroom, Rubiales denied the charges against him for alleged sexual assault and coercion and did answer questions from the judge, the prosecutor and Jennifer Hermoso's lawyer.

Hermoso's lawyer, outside after the hearing, did speak to the media. Here is what she had to say.


CARLA VALL, JENNI HERMOSO'S LAWYER (through translator): We can stand up what we said from the start. It was a kiss without consent. Everyone saw the images. The whole country saw it.

And we can say that, precisely because of that, thanks to social change, too, and also because of the legal changes, we can show that Mr. Rubiales lacked consent.


GOODMAN: Rubiales insists the kiss was consensual. It was seen on global TV, at the awards ceremony, right after Spain's women's team won the World Cup for the first time ever.

So many, many people saw it in the stadium and around the world. And the whole issue has become a kind of a case for Spain, of the differences between what are considered to be the older attitudes about sex and sexism in Spain versus a younger generation, who are pushing more for gender equality.

Now the judge at the national court here will have to investigate, including and expected to contact Australian authorities, look at video. This court is used to investigating difficult subjects, money laundering, organized crime and now it's got this one to take a look at -- Al Goodman, CNN, Madrid.





HARRAK: A Colombian artist sometimes called the Picasso of Latin America has died. Fernando Botero was known for around the world for his full-figured creations. His death at the age of 91 was announced on Friday. Stefano Pozzebon is in Bogota with a look at his life and career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STEFANO POZZEBON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here we are in front of the museum in central Bogota dedicated to Fernando Botero and to his work.

Inside, behind the door, behind my back, there are some of his most renowned paintings and sculptures but also works from other artists that the master himself purchased across his lifetime and left here on exhibition for -- on public display, for everybody to come and see his private collection as a way to honor his own legacy.

Of course here, on Friday, since the early morning hours of the morning, thousands of Colombians have come to pay their respects. And it's nobody is better than the chief curator of this museum to truly understand what makes Botero unique.


LAURA ZARTA, CHIEF ART CURATOR, BANK OF THE REPUBLIC: Two of the most important things that have made his work so important is the use of color and the way in which he experimented with volume since the early years of his career.

Throughout that experimentation process and his prolific work, he found a style and that is one of the reasons why, when we see a Botero painting, we know that's his.


POZZEBON: And, of course, the Colombian president and former president, members of the world of television, entertainment, theater, sports have expressed their condolences. They have paid their respects across Friday.

The city of Medellin (ph), where Botero was born in 1932, declared seven days of public mourning. But there is truly a sense now of an entire nation coming together, to say goodbye to one of its most renowned sons but also to one of its most famous ambassadors, of what it means to be a Colombian around the world -- for CNN, this is Stefano Pozzebon, Bogota.


HARRAK: I'm Laila Harrak. On behalf of the entire team, thanks for joining us. My colleague, Kim Brunhuber, will be back in 30 minutes with more CNN NEWSROOM.