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CONNECT THE WORLD

Lockerbie Bomber Release: One Year Later

Aired August 20, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: One year after arriving in Libya, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is still living as a free man. That has Scotland defending its decision to release the only person convicted in the Lockerbie bombing.

Meanwhile, families of the victims are no less angry over what they call a miscarriage of justice.

On CNN, this is the hour we connect the world.

Well, it's an anniversary that is polarizing debate the world over, and we want your thoughts this evening. A year after the Lockerbie bomber touched down on home soil, a U.S. lawmaker calls for an independent inquiry into his release.

So tonight, we ask, was it right to let al-Megrahi go?

I'm Becky Anderson in London for you.

Tweet me atbeckycnn.

Coming up this hour, exploring our oceans to new depths -- how scientists are getting a clearer picture of our marine environment.

And singing and sensation Mandy Moore is answering your questions this evening. She is tonight's Connector of the Day.

And do remember, you can connect with the program online via Tweet. Again, my personal address is atbeckycnn. Log on and do join the conversation.

Well, many thought the only man ever convicted in the Lockerbie bombing would die behind bars. But one year to the day since he walked out of a Scottish prison and returned to Libya a free man, Abdelbaset al- Megrahi is very much alive. And international fury over his release, well, it's flaring.

Let's take a look back at our coverage from August 20th, 2009.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: This is what Lockerbie families feared -- Abdelbaset al- Megrahi greeted as a hero back home in Libya.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man ever convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, who had only served eight years of his life sentence, was released today, a free man.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Upon examination by doctors there in Scotland, they assumed that he has about three months to live from terminal prostate cancer.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of family members even question whether or not he really is dying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we'll find out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Well, Britain's foreign office is urging Libya to refrain from celebrating the anniversary of al-Megrahi's release. What you saw then was our coverage, of course, a year ago.

It says today's celebrations would be "tasteless, offensive and deeply insensitive" to the families of the 270 people who died when PanAm Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie.

Well, the victims were citizens of 21 countries, including many from the United States.

And Phil Black now reports, U.S. senators want answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): One year after this celebration, the release of the Lockerbie bomber is still a source of pain. Stephanie Bernstein's husband Michael was among those killed when PanAm 103 feel from the sky. She believes politics and oil were behind the decision to free Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

STEPHANIE BERNSTEIN, WIDOW: I can see that everything that we predicted, the family members were concerned about, has come true. And it's not surprising but it's deeply upsetting and it's sickening.

BLACK: Anger, too, from four U.S. senators, demanding to know more about Megrahi's release.

ROBERT MENENDEZ, U.S. SENATE DEMOCRAT: So on this unfortunate anniversary, on this unwelcome milestone, we want it to be known that our desire for answers is as strong as ever.

BLACK: The senators have written to the British and Scottish governments again, asking whether trade with Libya was an issue when Scottish justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, freed the man convicted of murdering 270 people. The leader of the Scottish government again insisted it was not.

ALEX SALMOND, SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER: All we've got a right to expect, Kenny MacAskill and myself or any other member of the Scottish government, is that we made a decision in good faith according to due process and we followed Scotts law. That's exactly what we did. And that is why we stand by it.

BLACK: The American senators also want more access to medical advice with triggered Megrahi's release. That report, predicting three months was a reasonable estimate of his life expectancy, was written by the head doctor of the Scottish prison service, Andrew Frazer (ph). In the report, he listed four specialists who treated Megrahi. Two of those consultants have now publicly said they weren't involving in reaching the three month prognosis.

Professor Roger Kirby is a prostate cancer expert who says it was foolish to even try to estimate how long Megrahi would life.

PROF. ROGER KIRBY, PROSTATE CANCER EXPERT: At the time of his release, I was very surprised that they had released him on the premise that he would die within three months, because I've looked up very many patients with advanced pos -- advanced prostate cancer and I know that there's tremendous variability in their life expectancy, even when they're quite severely affected by the disease.

BLACK: The Scottish Prison Service medical report doesn't mention if chemotherapy had been used to try slowing the disease. Professor Kirby believes that's what's probably kept Megrahi alive for the last year.

KIRBY: We could be talking, you know, many, many more months and maybe even years longer before he dies. And the longer he lives, the more embarrassing it gets.

BLACK: One year on, the Scottish government says it is not embarrassed and feels no regret.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: All right, well, we asked Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, who made the decision to free al-Megrahi, to speak to us, but he refused. He did, though, speak to British broadcaster ITN. And he told them he was doing his job and stands by the decision that he made.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNY MACASKILL, SCOTTISH JUSTICE SECRETARY: It was my responsibility. I couldn't pass it to a colleague. I couldn't pass it to a civil servant. The buck stopped with me. It was a decision that was going to have consequences for others, as well as for me. But as I say, it was a decision that I was privileged to be able to be in the position to take. It was a decision I had to take. It was a decision I took without fear or favor, without consideration of political, economic or, indeed, diplomatic matters. It was a decision I knew would never get universal approval or acclaim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: The Scottish justice minister who made the decision.

And he may be right about that.

So one year on, many Scots don't support MacAskill's decision to free the convicted Lockerbie bomber. According to an Itsoff-Maury poll (ph) for STV, 54 percent of more than 1,000 people polled in Scotland disagree with the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber. Thirty-five percent agree with it.

Well, compare that to August of last year, when 46 percent did not support the decision to free him; 42 percent agreed with it then.

Well, let's join the global dots on this, shall we?

We started in Libya, where al-Megrahi is living, a year after he was freed from prison, believed to be near death from terminal cancer. We took you to Scotland, which defends the decision. And now, we're off to the United States, where outrage over al-Megrahi's release only appears to be growing.

I talked a short time ago to Brian Flynn.

His brother died on PanAm Flight 103 more than two decades ago.

And I asked Brian how he felt on that fateful day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN FLYNN, BROTHER KILLED ON PANAM FLIGHT 103: It was December 21st, 1988. I was on the way to the airport to pick up my brother. And my father, who was out of town, called. And I was stopped at my grandmother's house. And he said, what flight is he on, what flight is he on?

And I looked down at the piece of paper and I said, he's on PanAm 103. And he burst into tears. And our lives were changed since that moment.

And I remember very clearly, about two weeks later, as we were trying to sort through what it means to lose your older brother or your oldest son. And I remember my mother being in the other from talking very sternly, as she is wont to do, to a U.S. senator. And she said, my son will not die in vain. We need to understand how this happened and hold people accountable.

And I think that that day -- and I remember being a naive 19-year-old college student, I knew that that was going to become our -- the cause of our lives. And it's been that way. And it -- as you might imagine, when you see, a year later, we had one -- one terrorist that was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. And that one modicum of justice, although we know that Libya was behind it and that other people in the Libyan intelligence services were behind it, that one man was imprisoned and it gave us one modicum of justice. And a year ago today, that was robbed from us.

ANDERSON: What was your reaction when you saw al-Megrahi being released?

FLYNN: About a week -- a week or two before he was released, we had the opportunity to beg and plead with the Scottish justice minister to not release Megrahi on any grounds. And we said what we feared is that he would receive a hero's welcome and, in fact, would be alive a year from today. And that -- that was a quote. I -- I had said that to MacAskill.

And all I had in front of me was his self-righteousness and sanctimonious behavior.

And I think what's important here is that it wasn't just a betrayal of the victims and the families and the hundreds of people that worked in bringing this man to justice. It also was a betrayal of the people of Libya, one of the most unfree nations on earth. It basically legitimized and further fortified the tyranny of the Gadhafi regime.

ANDERSON: What have you done since al-Megrahi's release?

FLYNN: Since the day he was released, we said, all right, if he's going to die in three months, show us the medical evidence. And just this week, we now learn that the four cancer experts that were treating Megrahi were not at all consulted on his prognosis of whether he had three months to live. Nobody who has had any involvement with any sort of prostate cancer would believe that you could say you've got three months left to live.

Also, no one ever starts chemotherapy when they're about to die. And as we now know, he refused chemotherapy when he was in prison. Well, if I refuse to eat, I will die in three months.

Would they let me out of prison because I refused to eat?

And I just think that that's a further indication of the corruption of the process.

ANDERSON: This is a process, sadly, that you have been involved in now for many years.

Do you have any optimism that you will get anywhere at this point?

FLYNN: It would be easier to simply say well, come on, it's been 22 years, let it go already, you're not going to be able to do anything. They're not going to give him up. He's going to die at some point, so just let it go.

But I think that starts to -- to pick out what I mentioned before, which is that this isn't just about my brother, but it's about what we believe in as members of the society. It's about whether we think it's our responsibility to uphold and enforce justice or are we going to allow that tenuous ligament that holds us together to -- to be torn out and stretched and ultimately corrupted, in this case?

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Brian Flynn speaking to me earlier.

What I want to do now is take a wider opinion on this story, get a wider look.

When we first learned of al-Megrahi's release last year, CONNECT THE WORLD, this show, ran an online poll asking if he should be freed on compassionate grounds. Take a look at the results back then. We had 12,000 people vote. An overwhelming 80 percent of you said now.

One year on, we're asking if people have changed their opinion.

Well, Lee M. Warren wrote in and said: "Who cares if he has any kind of cancer? He did not care about one member of that flight."

But Sam from London makes this point: "Showing mercy toward the unmerciful is what separates us from them."

And, listen, you've been Tweeting me on this tonight, as well.

Let's go through some of those.

Briol (ph) has written in to us. He says: "Becky, tough question for a Friday evening. Two wrongs don't make a right and compassion is a good thing. Are we 100 sure he was guilty anyway?"

But Baby Hockitt (ph) writing to me atbeckycnn: "If he was terminally ill, then it must have seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Now seeing him alive stirs up mixed feelings."

The last were Taquira (ph) tonight -- morning from New York City. She says: "No, it wasn't right to release him. He's got as many months to live as the rest of us -- a lot. Bad decision," she says.

You've got 140 characters at your fingertips. Tel us what you think and we'll do more of those at the end of the show.

Now, an eye for an eye -- is it an appropriate penalty for wrongdoing or barbaric revenge?

A case in Saudi Arabia making waves around the world. We're going to be examining that, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: This is CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

Now, we have all heard the phrase, "eye for an eye." In some places, it's a form of justice, considered by critics to be both gruesome and unnecessary. In others, well, it's simply justice.

Mohammed Jamjoom now joins me from CNN Abu Dhabi with one particular case in Saudi Arabia that is raising the eye of human rights activists -- Mohammed.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM: Well, that's right, Becky. Saudi newspapers are reporting today a shocking case and the Saudi judge had sent letters to at least two hospitals in Saudi Arabia asking whether doctors in those hospitals could perform a surgery that could sever a man's spinal cord. This is a man who was convicted of attacking another man and paralyzing this other man. This is according to local newspapers.

Saudi Arabia enforces this kind of justice, as you said, an eye for an eye. So it's not particularly surprising, the concept of an eye for an eye, in Saudi Arabia, this ancient code that they're following. But it is shocking human rights activists over there.

Now, many of the rights activists that I've spoken with, I think, expressed outrage and outright disgust. But they want to make sure that they know more details about the case before going forward and being openly critical of the judge in this case.

Now, the way that the case is being reported in the Saudi press and the outrage that's being expressed over there shows yet again the societal struggle that's going on in Saudi Arabia between the country's hardliners and its progressives. These days, we're seeing more and more of these controversial verdicts come to light. In the past few years, there have been several verdicts by Saudi Arabian judges that have been subject to severe scrutiny by the press over there, whether it's the case of a child bride who wasn't granted a divorce or a man sentenced to death for the crime of sorcery or even a rape victim that was given a punishment harsher than her attackers were given, these verdicts are being reported on.

That's what's news here. They're being blogged about. Ordinary Saudis are feeling empowered and speaking up about them, expressing how upset it makes them.

Now, because, traditionally, courts and judges in Saudi Arabia were considered above reproach, these days, they're actually being questioned. They're being questioned in a very public way, not just from outside Saudi Arabia, by rights groups -- international rights groups -- but inside Saudi Arabia, as well. And that's showing that, you know, there is a real struggle by the king in Saudi Arabia as to how he's going to modernize these courts.

The highest levels of power in Saudi Arabia are aware that these kind of draconian punishments, when they're being reported on, how they look to the outside world and they want to stop this -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Mohammed Jamjoom, always a pleasure, particularly on a Friday.

We thank you very much, indeed for that reporting to you from Abu Dhabi tonight.

Well, the way justice is -- is carried out differs dramatically across cultures. And I want to show you one very interesting example of justice from the Inuit people of Canada. Now, basic tenets of it remain in the current court of system of the nanubut (ph), the key concept being this. Inuit leaders did not view themselves as people who enforced laws or established social behavior. So when a wrongdoing happened, they talked to the offender, trying to make them feel loved. Well, if that didn't work, they talked again in a more serious nature, establishing the idea of consequences. Well, eventually, other Inuit members were sometimes permitted to seek revenge or the offender could be expelled from the community.

Well, sociologists say that justice is the glue that holds societies together, wherever we are. So I guess we shouldn't be surprised if different societies choose to exercise justice in different ways.

Well, our next guest was a commissioner of justice in many parts of Pakistan for a long time. A big thinker and CONNECT THE WORLD panelist, Akbar Ahmed, joins me now from Washington.

Can I get your reaction to the case in Saudi Arabia, sir?

AKBAR AHMED, CHAIR OF ISLAMIC STUDIES, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Becky, I'm not surprised. This is to be seen in the context of what essentially is a tribal society. And this kind of punishment reflects the biblical sense of an eye for an eye literally. And this is what's being translated into action.

Now, I, as an administrator and as a first class magistrate in parts of Pakistan, was surprised to see that there were four parallel systems of justice running simultaneously. There was this kind of tribal law. There was Islamic law. There was state law -- state law meaning the particular state we were in. And then there was national law, the law I was supposed to administer, which was influenced by the British. It had a regular civil procedure code and a criminal procedure code.

And there's often a conflict between these systems of law, sometimes overlapping. And you can see how much confusion there is in the field.

So this case in Saudi Arabia is not the only case of its kind. We see many cases like this in Saudi Arabia and we also see cases like this -- stoning or beheading or cutting hands, amputating hands or -- or feet -- in Iran, in Afghanistan, and even in parts of Pakistan which are very tribal.

ANDERSON: Sir, all three Abrahamic faiths have in their teaching an eye for an eye.

So why is it that only -- it's only under Islamic law that it's taken at face value?

AHMED: Very good question, Becky. And this is a great question that Muslim scholars need to be addressing, because, in some sense, this confusion that I pointed out still exists in Muslim societies, whereas many societies in the West have long, long ago separated religion from the state and have become very genuinely secular.

I also want to point out that in Islamic law, strictly, compassion is a very important virtue in any judge, so that however harsh the judge -- the punishment may be in terms of tribal law, an eye for an eye, the compassion element that must be exercised by the judge overrides it. And that, I'm afraid, we don't see much of in cases like this, when, very often, the victim becomes twice punished.

ANDERSON: Briefly, sociologists, a I said earlier, say that justice is the glue that holds societies together.

Is it?

AHMED: It is. It absolutely is. Because when you don't have justice, Becky -- and you see this across the Muslim world today. One of the great complaints that Muslims will have is that there is no justice. They're constantly complaining about this. They're talking about their rulers, their leader, their judges as being corrupt and being incompetent and pointing out that God -- the name of God in Islam, one of the greatest names, is Allah (ph) or justice, that God represents justice and we on earth must represent that justice.

And in a case like this, I can imagine this -- this person who was involved would be asking, where is the justice and where is the compassion?

We need to remember that the two greatest names of God are Raymond (ph) and Raheem -- compassion and mercy. And this is very important in Islam.

ANDERSON: It is always a pleasure.

We thank you very much, indeed, on a Friday afternoon in Washington, for joining us here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Akbar Ahmed, thank you.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD.

I'm Becky Anderson in London.

We'll, after the break, we're going to cruise through the Baltics for you, but from far below the surface. Meet the Roboglider. We're going to tell you why it's got scientists so excited.

Back in about 60 seconds.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Well, let the journey continue. This week on CONNECT THE WORLD, we've been traveling to the world's biodiversity hot spots, taking you to some of the most breathtaking and inspiring places on earth. We've been looking at science and nature -- protection versus progress and what we can learn from a billion years of evolution.

Well, we began the week in Ecuador's Amazonian jewel, the Yasuni National Park there. Deep below, there's a billion barrels of untapped crude, we're told. The government says it will stay off limits if -- and only if -- nations are willing to pay compensation.

Then we tour Turkey's Katchcar Mountains, where locals fear that a hydro power scheme is putting its fragile environment at risk.

From that, we found a bio-inspiration in France -- scientists taking their cue from the best in the business, applying nature's designs to their aviation projects.

And Thursday, we landed in Madagascar, where a daunting marine census is underway to catalogue the entire DNA -- every form of life in the ocean.

Well, tonight, we are heading off the coast of Germany, where oceanographers have also set themselves quite a task. But it's not so much the marine life that's attracting their attention. For these researchers, it's more about recording the secrets of the sea itself.

Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHANNES KARSTENSEN, PHYSICAL OCEANOGRAPHER, IFM-GEOMAR: The oceans are about 70 percent of -- of the surface of the earth. And it is very hard to explore.

ANDERSON: (voice-over): Sailing on the Baltic Sea -- marine scientists here in Kiel in Germany are using the latest technology to scour the ocean's depths.

KARSTENSEN: The glider of the robot and the water robot, they call it, has a platform which carries censors. And the glider has -- has some navigational instrumentation. Like it has a GPS. And it can stay in the -- in the water from, say, two months and even up to six months autonomously.

ANDERSON: Oceanographers at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Scientists are gathering as much information as they can about the oceans so that we can learn how they are changing.

MARTIN VISBECK, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, IFM-GEOMAR: We are concerned about the future of the ocean. We are concerned about changes in the ocean. What we're trying to do here is to understand better how the ocean works at a much more detailed level and now when you can apply that understanding to think about the scenarios of the future.

ANDERSON: These robots can travel down deep into the water, recording data, calculating temperature, salinity, oxygen levels. And the Leibniz Institute has Europe's biggest fleet of these gliders, using up to 10 at once to develop detailed scans of the marine environment around the globe. The measurements are used to form models of how things are changing, to try and predict what will happen in the future.

VISBECK: And we take that information and put it into computer code. We program very large computers. And then we can forecast them into the future. We can ask what if questions -- what if the CO2 in the atmosphere rises to something like 600 ppm, two times, three times what we have today?

How fast will the acidification progress?

How much warming will be good?

And that assessment of the future we can only do through models.

ANDERSON: Here in Kiel, the data collected by the gliders is scrutinized by one of the most well equipped teams of marine scientists in the world.

VISBECK: These data, then, we take and feed into and compare with our ocean simulations. Here you see an animation of a North Atlantic Ocean model, very high resolution. Each grid point is 10 by 10 kilometers. And all these colorful tracks are the dies, the zigzag drives of each glider. There are six gliders operating here in this area and this is something like 20 kilometers by 20 kilometers. And every couple of hours, we get a probe that's on the surface down to 1,000 meters.

ANDERSON: Changes to the oceans mean changes for all of us.

VISBECK: The gliders have huge potential. The gliders and other robots that we use, they will enable us to learn so much more about the marine environment than we would have ever dreamed of while we were just using ships. With the advancement of technology, it's the small sensors, it's microelectronics, communications -- all of this enables us to do a kind of marine research that we would have never dreamt 10 years, even 20 years ago.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff, isn't it?

And you'll get more from Earth's Frontiers next week here on CONNECT THE WORLD.

Still to come tonight, a clash over the way that crime is reported in Venezuela. Well, authorities accuse some newspapers of sensationalizing the problem to twist public debate. Critics, though, say the government is just trying to shoot messenger.

That's coming up with your headlines after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Just after half past nine in London. You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. I'm Becky Anderson in London for you. Coming up, censorship or a way to protect kids? We'll examine Venezuela's controversial crackdown on the media.

And we continue on the Trail of Human Trafficking. From India to Bangladesh, we've found evidence of exploitation. And tonight, we travel to a small village outside of Kolkata.

And a young American star on an African mission. Mandy Moore gets connected and talks to us about her campaign to fight malaria.

Those stories are ahead for you here on this show in the next 30 minutes. First, let me get you a very quick check of the headlines.

A small step forward on a long road to peace. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced a date for direct talks to resume between Israelis and Palestinians. She says the White House is inviting the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas to meet there on September the 2nd.

Some 14 million people will be voting on Saturday in what's expected to be Australia's closest general election in decades. Polls show incumbent prime minister Julia Gillard running neck-and-neck with the opposition leader, Tony Abbott. Ms. Gillard took office in June after her Labor Party ousted Kevin Rudd from power.

Russia is furious that a Thai appeals court is ordering the extradition of Viktor Bout to the United States, calling the decision unlawful and political. He is a former Soviet military officer accused of supplying weapons to war zones around the world. A US sting operation nabbed the so-called merchant of death in Bangkok in 2008.

A shooting in Venezuela's is shining the spotlight on a problem that critics say the government is trying to conceal, and that is one of the continent's highest crime rates. A stray bullet injured a baseball player from Hong Kong last week during a game at the Women's Baseball World Cup. That game took place at a stadium on a military base in Caracas. The government briefly suspended the games, then moved them outside of the capital.

Around the same time, a Venezuelan newspaper caused an uproar by publishing a very graphic photo on its front page to highlight what is a story, they say, on rising crime. Well, soon all papers in the country found themselves under a ban that many called censorship. But as Rafael Romo now reports for you, the government, well they have a very different explanation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): One newspaper published the news by stamping the word "Censored" in red letters across its front page. A Venezuelan judge issued a decree banning printed news media from publishing violent, bloody, or grotesque photographs for a 30-day period.

The ban was lifted Thursday, but it still applies to two major newspapers that have been critical of the government.

Teodoro Petkoff, the publisher of the "TalCual" newspaper, which is still under the ban, calls the measure "one more step toward the restriction of freedom of expression in Venezuela." The judge issued the ruling after three citizens complained about a front page picture showing a dozen naked bodies sprawled on tables at a morgue in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.

The picture, taken last December, appeared this week on the two newspapers for which the ban remains in effect.

The publisher of "El Nacional" says that the government assumed a very aggressive position because the picture had a big political impact. Both papers ran stories about rising crime in Venezuela right next to the controversial picture.

Pro-government groups say the media has gone too far when it comes to depicting violence.

This pro-government activist says that extremely violent images are not used to inform, but to advance an anti-government agenda. Gabriela Ramirez, a cabinet member, whose title is "Defender of the Public," says the government also wants to protect children.

Ramirez says that the violent nature of the images interferes with the healthy development of children and teenagers.

ROMO (on camera): President Hugo Chavez, who has repeatedly said that crime in Venezuela is falling, has accused the opposition of trying to exploit the issue for political gain, calling press reports on violence "desperate acts by right-wing sectors." Security is a major concern for Venezuelan voters as they get ready for parliamentary elections scheduled for September 26. Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Venezuela's capital is one of the most violent cities in the world, but Caracas is not at the top of the list, let me tell you. Figures from a Mexican security watchdog group show that distinction belongs to Juarez, Mexico. See the numbers here, 191 murders per 100,000 residents in 2009.

In second place, the city in Honduras of San Pedro Sula, with 119 murders per 100,000 people. El Salvador's capital was the world's third deadliest city last year. Caracas, Venezuela placing fourth, with some 94 murders per 100,000 residents.

The most dangerous city outside Latin America was in the United States. New Orleans had the world's eighth highest murder rate last year.

We should note, the list is based on cities that report official statistics. Some that don't are, perhaps, even more chaotic and violent, like, for example, Mogadishu. So -- Mogadishu. I swallowed that, didn't I?

So, what connects all these crime-ridden places? We're going to find out. We're joined now by Will Ferroggiaro. He's a senior associate for you tonight of the Fund for Peace in Washington. It's a good question. We'll take a look at the list in a moment, but what does link these cities, if anything?

WILL FERROGGIARO, SENIOR ASSOCIATE, FUND FOR PEACE: I don't know that much does, Becky. And I think that you have to look at each situation differently. Certainly, when crime is rampant and murders are happening in an increased way, it suggests a very important point, which is there's a lack of governance, a lack of public service delivery in terms of police forces and law enforcement. And perhaps even a failure of the judicial system. So that -- those were just general things you could say about -- that are common to these cities.

ANDERSON: Which raises a point, and it's one that my director was asking me a little earlier on. New Orleans came eighth on the list in 2009. Would it be lower or higher than that pre-Katrina?

FERROGGIARO: I don't know. I think one of the -- another factor that our failed states index highlights is unequal development. And I think in those cities like New Orleans or Detroit, for example, that have been de- industrialized or have suffered from lack of development over the years, feature high crime rates. It's a common causal relationship.

And I think you see that in a number of these cities, of the poorest of the poor cities.

ANDERSON: Mogadishu, then, top of the list. I'm not sure that that will, sadly, surprise many people. Are we, though, just writing it off? Is what we're saying, "It's gone. It's all over for Mogadishu." There must be some gleams of hope, surely. Some rays of light in these places.

FERROGGIARO: Well, I -- yes, I think the interesting thing is -- about Mogadishu is, as -- most people are familiar with the violence and the huge displacement, a vast majority of the city has left -- residents have left the city -- is that there are schools still operating. There are hospitals operating, there are reporters, radio stations that are there. Even though the transitional TFG, the transitional federal government only owns a portion of the capital.

So, to a certain extent, there's a resilience there that I think is fascinating. And I think you see it in a number of societies. But, of course, you have to see that amidst the violence that's there.

ANDERSON: I'm wondering, and I hope this doesn't sound like a strange question, and I'll let you explain why I'm asking you if it does, but I'm wondering whether since 2007 and this cyclical downturn we are seeing cities getting worse, not better. And I think it's a clear question.

FERROGGIARO: Oh, absolutely. I think that the economic downturn hit a number of cities very hard. And certainly, over the -- a longer term, we've seen increasing urbanization in the last couple decades. So, they're bearing the brunt. They're having to produce public services in a time of lack of revenue.

And I would say again, to point back to the governance issue, many of these countries that are in conflict or have violent societies aren't able to tax. And so they don't have the revenue to actually administer the public services. So that's an issue as well. It's a -- there are many causes, and it's a -- and they're complex.

ANDERSON: Yes, fascinating stuff, Will. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us --

FERROGGIARO: Thanks for having me, Becky.

ANDERSON: Connecting the dots for you this evening.

Imagine if you were -- if you will, an entire village held captive. Not through the kind of violence that we've just been discussing with Will, but forced labor. It's part of our latest stop on the Trail of Human Trafficking. We'll also hear what you have to say on our coverage initiative. That is ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON: Welcome back now. I want to reconnect you with a very special guest of ours. He's Siddharth Kara, a researcher from Harvard University traveling through south Asia at the moment On the Trail of Human Trafficking.

He's literally been crisscrossing the country and -- the region, sorry, sharing with us what he finds. From beautification projects in New Delhi to the shrimp industry on Bangladesh's coast, to children working in India's carpet mills, it's been a shocking journey. You can follow his exclusive blog and leave your own comments at cnn.com/connect.

Today, we travel to a small village outside of Kolkata. You need to hear what he says about this town, effectively held captive. Strictly speaking, it's not human trafficking, but it gives you a sense of the economic conditions that foster it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SIDDHARTH KARA, HUMAN TRAFFICKING EXPERT (via telephone): These are people who are in full-on forced labor. You've got an example of two young women who are in bidi rolling. Forced labor and bidi rolling, and that's a kind of Indian cigarette.

Actually, their entire village of 600 plus people is largely held captive from the ages of 5 to 60-plus, rolling hundreds if not a thousand a more of these little bidis per day. They're not allowed to pick any other work, they're not allowed to do anything else or even leave the area, and they're given maybe 50 cents or up to a dollar per day now and then for this very tedious, very repetitive work.

And you can imagine young children and young adults --

ANDERSON: Sure.

KARA: Inhaling tobacco all day. And doing this menial task is hardly good for them.

ANDERSON: I'm just wondering. You say this village is effectively held captive. How does that happen, and is there any other work anyway in the region? Even if they wanted it?

KARA: That's the vital question that I ask every time. And the answer is invariably, "there's nothing else we can find to do." And even in the rare instances that there may be, the people are, in this case, in this village here, held captive. Meaning the local top man, the local landowner basically says, "If you want to stay in the hut, if you want shelter and food now and then, this is the work you'll do." And they really have no choice. What else are they going to do?

ANDERSON: What sort of experience have you had in this region of human trafficking?

KARA: Well, I met several trafficked domestic slaves throughout west Bengal. These are typically young girls. An agent will come into a village, like this captive village, and say, "Hey, I've got a deal for you." Well, he's an agent of the landowner. And he presents an opportunity to go to Delhi, Bombay, maybe Kolkata, and work as a domestic servant for a family, and he'll promise a lot of money.

Once they're there -- there's a young girl in one of the photos was telling me, she was forced to work 18 hours a day, given food and a cot to sleep on, but never paid a thing. Or maybe sometimes after six months, given one tenth of their wage and sent to another family.

So this happened to this young girl for three and a half years until she was finally sent back. So she is a classic human trafficking victim in domestic servitude.

ANDERSON: We've had some comments from the viewers on your blog. And I just want you -- to read a couple of them out to you, Siddharth. Myview2009 says this. "The issue transcends race or ethnicity. It's the same thing happening in some African, Asian, and South American countries, where parents also sell their kids to traffickers, all in a bid to make money. The underlying issue is poverty, and a lack of will in those countries by governments to do anything about it." Your response?

KARA: I think this viewer is largely correct. We've been focusing on south Asia primarily because I can only be in one place at one time. But I've been to eastern Europe and Africa, southeast Asia, wherever you find poverty or bias against certain ethnicities and minority groups, and these people are often exploited.

The one issue I would take point -- and one point I would take issue with, though, is, it's very rarely, in my experience, parental greed that leads to selling of a child. I have, of course, seen that more than once. But it's merely desperation. Intense desperation and poverty and a sense of helplessness that leads to calculations that are difficult for us in the west to imagine.

ANDERSON: Bbadger writing in on the same point. "There is no public education in these areas," he says, "and the people are dirt poor. Kids work so that their families can eat. The real problem isn't the child labor, but the conditions that encourage it."

And another one, I just want you to respond to, tigresse writes and says, "As long as countries put business concerns first over human concerns, this type of thing will continue to happen around the world. All countries who knowingly do business with countries who have these practices are guilty."

KARA: These are interesting observations. Certainly, one of them reinforces the fact that poverty is a key driver of this, along with the bias against ethnicities and, of course, female gender. And all kinds of other, what I call supply-side forces. Lawlessness and corruption.

But the other comment points to some of the demand side. The tolerance of corporations or companies and supply chains to exploit labor on the other side of the world. On the one hand, I've tried to make an argument in my work that we do need to address poverty and corruption and whatnot, but that's not going to happen tomorrow. We won't solve these problems tomorrow.

But what we can do tomorrow is bring down a fairly rigorous hammer on the head of the demand side.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: All right. Well that was our human trafficking expert Siddharth Kara. And we want to point out that we are following up with the governments in the region to try and get them to respond to what Siddharth has been finding and saying.

As mentioned, we're also following Siddharth's journey online, where you've got a chance to say -- or have your say, as well as -- on a story that CONNECT THE WORLD is committed to following. You're going to find his earlier blogs and the interviews that we've conducted with him already, all at cnn.com/connect.

Up next, we're getting connected with an American sweetheart. Mandy Moore, you're Connector of the Day. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON (voice-over): For many, actress and singer Mandy Moore is high up on the list of America's sweethearts. Her squeaky-clean teen image and pop songs were center stage when she toured with the boy band, Backstreet Boys, in 1999.

But it was her acting in the 2002 film "A Walk to Remember" that catapulted her to fame. Subsequent silver screen roles and songs like "I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week" have kept her in the spotlight.

Currently, the singer is using her voice to speak up for a good cause, fighting Malaria in Africa. She recently visited Sudan and saw firsthand the effects of the disease. She's now teamed up with the United Nations and their Nothing But Nets campaign. The goal, to get mosquito nets to every family who needs one in the Central African Republic, a country that rarely hits the headlines.

From the film sets of Hollywood to real-life scenes in Africa, Mandy Moore is your Connector of the Day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: For Americans, she is such a sweetheart, but in Africa she is known for her big heart. I caught up with Mandy recently and began by asking her about her work fighting Malaria.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANDY MOORE, SINGER AND ACTRESS: PSI has partnered up with the UN Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign because the UN identified an urgent need in Central African Republic for mosquito nets. So, yes, I'm excited to be at the forefront of this campaign trying to, sort of, create this dialogue and get people talking and realizing that Malaria is an entirely preventable disease.

Our goal is to cover the entire country, Central African Republic, with mosquito nets, to any and everyone there that may need a net.

ANDERSON: Have you got any personal stories of having witnessed the impact of Malaria? Because it's not something that we see, necessarily, as much in the western world as elsewhere.

MOORE: Sure. Here in the States, Malaria was eradicated and eliminated in the 50s, so it's not something that's necessarily on the forefront of everyone's mind. But I had the opportunity to visit southern Sudan last year with PSI, and I got to see firsthand the devastation that Malaria can cause, but also the tremendous impact that something as simple and cost-effective as a long-lasting insecticide-treated net can really do.

So it was definitely inspiring and makes me proud to be a part of this campaign, because I understand how feasible it is for everyone to make a contribution and to help.

ANDERSON: Mandy, I've often wondered why the world doesn't do more when I've seen the devastation that Malaria can cause. Do you think the world is doing enough at this point?

MOORE: I do. I think we've made great progress in recent years. And, obviously, we want to keep the momentum up so we can reach that millennium development goal of hoping to eradicate Malaria by 2015.

But I think we definitely have been doing a good job. Just want to continue the dialogue and continue the conversation and continuing to make people aware and engaged and help.

ANDERSON: Well, that's only one part of your life, although an extremely important one. The other, of course, is music and acting. Lots of questions from the viewers tonight. Paul asks, "What do you get the most fulfillment out of, music or acting?"

MOORE: Oh, goodness. If someone told me I had to make the choice, I think I'd probably go with music over acting, but, you know. I feel lucky to get to do a little bit of everything.

ANDERSON: We never hear about you on the Hollywood party scene. And Joseph says, "You never seem to get swept up in the recklessness of that scene. How did you -- or how do you," he says, "manage to stay so down-to- earth?"

MOORE: That's very nice. I guess people aren't going to the right places, because I'm getting wild and crazy in --

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: I don't believe you.

MOORE: In sort of off the beaten path spots. No, I feel lucky. I started at 15, and I have a great family and great friends and I think all of that sort of has kept me grounded. And also just having other things that sort of fulfill my life, like working with PSI and getting to travel and see other parts of the world, it definitely helps keep things in perspective and makes me feel even luckier to do what I love to do.

ANDERSON: And Annie asks, "What do you do in your spare time?"

MOORE: What do I do in my spare time? I'm kind of boring. I'm married, so I'm usually just home with my hubby and reading and going on the internet and go out and playing with the dog, going on hikes. Nothing really riveting or exciting.

ANDERSON: That doesn't sound boring, that sounds nice. Listen, Leo asks, "What can we expect -- "

MOORE: Yes.

ANDERSON: "From Mandy in the future?" What's coming up?

MOORE: Oh, goodness. What's coming up? Working on music, and I have a couple of films in the can that are going to be coming out the end of this year, the beginning of next. And a trip next month to Central African Republic to do this big massive net distribution. So, lots going on. I'm definitely not going to be home sitting there reading anytime soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON: Or playing with the dogs. Isn't she lovely? Mandy Moore, your Connector of the Day. Now, before we go, your comments on our main story tonight. The anniversary of the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbasset al-Megrahi. We've been asking you if al-Megrahi should have been released.

Somers says, "Absolutely not. Those lives were lost in vain as their killer is free and celebrated as a hero. Shame."

Herbert says, "Shameful that a civilized society still asks such a question. Don't you know that justice without mercy is cruelty?"

And I'm also getting a lot of tweets on this issue tonight. Esperanza77 (ph), "Why is he even still alive? He should have been executed. How can you ever forgive a person who killed 200 plus people in cold blood?"

Domdiup (ph) writing to me tonight, "This just shows that no one man can unfold the mystery of God," he says. "This is not the first time doctors have been wrong."

And I'm going to give the last word to Mark Flemming (ph), who's written in tonight @beckycnn. He writes, "Absolutely. A difficult decision, but a right one."

Get your voice heard on CNN. Head to the website, cnn.com/connect. And before we leave you tonight, we'd like to share with you this inspiring tale, and it's quite a twist on our top story. Touched by tragedy, united by circumstance.

This is Sonia Stratis and Chris Tedeschi. The couple are getting married tomorrow, but it's how they met that makes this story so special. Sonia's father was onboard Pan Am Flight 103 in 88 when it exploded, and Chris's father married a Lockerbie widow and grew up alongside her three children. The pair first met at a memorial for Pan Am 103 victims in 2008 and have been inseparable ever since. Good story for a Friday night, isn't it?

I'm Becky Anderson. That is your world, connected. We will be back with the headlines after this.

END