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Europe Gripped by Deadly Cold

Aired February 2, 2012 - 16:00   ET


ZAIN VERJEE, ANCHOR, WORLD REPORT: Tonight on CONNECT THE WORLD, Egypt's football tragedies sparked anger on the streets of Cairo.

Hundreds are injured as thousands protest after deadly riots at the stadium where it all unfolded, a stark reminder of a violent night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from London, this is CONNECT THE WORLD with Zain Verjee.

VERJEE: We're live in the Egyptian capital and in Port Said, with more on how political tensions erupted on the sports field. Also this hour, more than 100 people die as a severe cold snap grips Europe. And a shock announcement: Pakistan's top court moves to charge the prime minister with contempt.


VERJEE: First, anguish over the deadliest football riot in Egyptian history, now turning to anger at the country's military rulers. Protesters in Cairo tried to march on the interior ministry tonight, furious that authorities failed to prevent Wednesday's bloodshed at the stadium in Port Said. Some protesters shouted, "This was not a sports accident. This was a military massacre."

Riot police clashed with the protesters and fired tear gas to disperse them. Authorities are saying at least 442 people were injured. Earlier, many victims of Wednesday's violence were flown back to Cairo, their bodies draped in plastic sheeting. At least 79 people died in the chaos after a match between Port Said's home team, Al-Masry, and Cairo's Al-Ahly.

Witnesses say police did little if anything to stop Al-Masry fans from invading the pitch, and attacking rival supporters. Some are blaming police incompetence. Others suggest an intentional plot to stir up national unrest. We're on the ground across Egypt tonight. Ben Wedeman is following the unrest in Cairo, and Ian Lee, outside the stadium in Port Said.

Ben, let's start with you. Describe the situation in Tahrir Square now.

BEN WEDEMAN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Tahrir Square itself there's a large group of people. But the clashes that are taking place are in streets off of Tahrir Square, streets that are leading to the interior ministry which, of course, many Egyptians hold responsible for the bloodshed in Port Said last night.

Many people we spoke to today saying they believe that essentially the police allowed the fans for the Port Said team to attack the Cairo fans, the fans of Al-Ahly, and therefore, we heard lots of angry words in Tahrir and around it.

People want to see the -- once again, their rear -- reiterating their demands that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took over from Hosni Mubarak a year ago, step down and hand over power to a civilian body.

Many people feel that they simply have been incapable of handling the security situation in Egypt, not just regarding the Port Said bloodshed, but over the last year, simply unwilling to impose law and order and letting the country fall into something of a state of anarchy -- Zain.

VERJEE: Ben, stay with us for just a moment, because we want to get more now and speak to Amor Eletrebi. He's an Egyptian activist who's witnessed tonight's violence in Cairo. Thank you for being with us. First of all, just describe to us what you've been seeing.

AMOR ELETREBI, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST: Well, I saw -- it started with yesterday, last night, in the early hours of the morning, when the train of the rest of the Ultras, the (inaudible) were coming back from Port Said, and we went to work (inaudible) train station, and the situation was just too intense emotionally, with mothers coming in, wanting to hear the news about their sons being injured or dead, and the Ultras, when they came out of the train, it was too intense, that it was like just chanting anger at some point, and then at the other (inaudible), which just burst into tears.

And then it came to -- it was (inaudible) through the whole night till today morning, where marches with -- of like thousands, coming in towards the (inaudible) from all around the city, also in Port Said and other cities around Egypt. And I could see that there was more sadness that -- than anger, but easily not long after, I got the fact that actually somebody just told these people to just go (inaudible).

VERJEE: Amor Eletrebi, thank you so much for talking to us.

I want to go now to Ian Lee. Now he's been walking around the stadium in Port Said today, and retracing exactly what happened.

Ian, what are people saying there today? Who are they blaming?

IAN LEE, CNN PRODUCER: Well, Zain, people we talked to today are blaming the government for what happened. There are a few things that they're saying just don't seem right, that first of all, the weapons, the amount of weapons, the kind of weapons that people were allowed to get into the stadium, they say that how can they get these weapons inside? Where was the security?

And also the way that the people, the fans were able to move across the fields freely without the police trying to stop them is something that people are wondering -- and this is -- has the people here we talked to talking conspiracy, saying that this was planned, this wasn't just a random event, that this was a planned attack against the Al-Ahly supporters.

And when you -- when you -- we were tracing the steps of the -- of what happened there, in the stadium today, it was very unusual. One thing that really stuck out to me was the big metal gates that were supposedly locked, and then they were pushed down and broken down.

But you saw the shoes from people who tried to run away. And they said because that gate was shut, that's where a lot of people died, Zain.

VERJEE: What about the fallout of all of this? I mean, there was some top officials that -- in Port Said that have -- that have basically been fired. Is that going to satisfy people there? And if not, what will satisfy them?

LEE: Well, it was definitely something that people were calling for. They were wanting that -- like some sort of accountability, although it doesn't seem like they're happy with the steps that were taken so far with the head of the interior ministry here being sacked and others. They're wanting a better investigation into what's going on. We were on the field today, and here's what we found.

I'm standing on the soccer pitch here in Port Said that was turned into a killing field yesterday evening. What we're hearing is that during the game, tensions were high as each side was shooting fireworks at each other, which isn't uncommon.

But what happened afterwards was extraordinary. What happened here was Al-Masry soccer fans emptied the stadium, emptied the seats, moved along this way, and they were coming over here. Over here we have the Ahly fans.

Now we had -- security was right here, police were situated right over here. But what we're hearing from eyewitnesses is that they didn't stop the rush of people who were coming across the field. The people over here were having -- they had knives, they had swords, what we're hearing, all sorts of different weapons.

And moving across here, there were these yellow gates right here, what we have. And these yellow gates were open. Usually they're locked during games, but somehow they were open. And then police were standing right by them, doing nothing, from what we're hearing. You have all the Ahly fans. Then up in the stands, they're then trapped essentially, because the only ways to exit are really here, over here.

So what we're hearing is that these steel gates were open, the police standing by. So the crowd rushed through here. And if you look up here, you can see the stands. And there are all the people that were up in here, and there are really only a couple of exits that they had to choose from.

So as you can see, there was hundreds, if not thousands of people up in this area, very hard to move through to what looks like two different exits, potential exits. But what is very telling of this attack is coming up here, looking at the different seats, you can see blood in them. You can see where people were killed or kicked.

And we have -- right now we're hearing 79 people were killed. You can see where some of these people were killed from the massive amount of blood that is on the seat. But something that we're also hearing that is a bit more unnerving is that at the top here, fans were thrown over the side down onto the concrete below.

So the massive crowd of people came down here, thousands of people came through this tunnel. As you can see, people had left their shoes. They ran out of their shoes, and they came down here. And as they got down here, big metal steel doors were holding them in place, as you can see right over here, you can see right down here the big metal doors that were -- that were actually pushed down.

They broke through, a surge of people pushed through these metal doors right down here. And if you look right here you can see that this -- how these metal doors were held in place, but then they were knocked down by the surge of people.

And what we're hearing is a lot of people actually died right here when they couldn't break through, they suffocated when the -- when the huge surge pushed them against these doors. Eventually the force breaking through here and they were able to escape out this way.

VERJEE: Ian Lee reporting from Port Said tonight. Thanks, Ian.

I want to go back now to Ben Wedeman, who's in Cairo, with a little bit more on the political fallout.

Ben, there was an emergency session of parliament today. Just describe to us what happened there.

WEDEMAN: Actually, there was a fascinating scene. What happened is around midday, the emergency session of parliament was opened. The speaker of the parliament gave a brief opening statement, then announced that the live broadcast on Egyptian TV would be cut for the rest of the session.

When he said that, you could hear dozens of deputies strenuously objecting to this statement. The signal went out, but it came back about three minutes later.

And what we heard was one deputy after another blasting the government, accusing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of not doing its duty in protecting Egyptians, demanding the resignation of the interior ministry, demanding a whole string of things in terms of investigations, firings and whatnot, which really transfixed people around Cairo, driving with -- I was in a car, and normally you can hear taxis playing music and whatnot.

But every car seemed to be -- their radios seemed to be tuned to the live broadcast of parliament. And this is something that's unprecedented for Egyptians. I remember covering the parliament in the days of Hosni Mubarak, and basically you could count all the people, all the deputies who were sleeping during the session.

This was a rowdy, stormy session, but something of a spectacle for Egyptians, who've never seen a functioning parliament before. So one bright point, bright spot on an otherwise very dark day -- Zain?

VERJEE: Great perspective from CNN's senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman, reporting to us from Cairo. Thanks a lot, Ben.

We're going to have a lot more on this story just ahead in our show. Don Riddell will be looking at reaction across the sporting world. That's going to be in about 10 minutes from now.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD, live from London. Still to come, another disaster at sea, this time a ferry capsizes off the coast of Papua New Guinea. We'll bring you all the details on the frantic to save lives.

Plus the cold snap that's causing havoc as sub-zero temperatures continue to hit Europe. We're going to hear from those worst affected. And facing the fight of his political life, Pakistan's prime minister summoned to appear before judges. All that and more still ahead with CONNECT THE WORLD continues.


VERJEE: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN, the world's news leader. Welcome back. More than 160 people have died in Europe's worst cold spell in years. Eastern Europe remains the hardest hit region with lows reaching -30 degrees.

In Ukraine alone, 65 people are dead and more than 1,100 are suffering from hypothermia and frostbite. Journalist Alexy Yaorshevsky explained the situation from the capital, Kiev.


ALEXY YAORSHEVSKY, REPORTER, "RUSSIA TODAY": This winter has been very nontypical, I would say, because it's been -- had been very warm up until mid-January, when there was only -2, -3 outside. And then all of a sudden, at the end of January, the strong subzero temperatures came to just about everywhere across this part of the world.


VERJEE: Frigid air heading south from Siberia is causing the sustained subzero temperatures. A little later in the show, we're going to speak to an iReporter who's in Romania, who believes that the worst is yet to come.

Here's a look now at some of the other stories connecting our world tonight. Rescuers face rough seas as they scour the waters just off Papua New Guinea after a passenger ferry sank. And there's no word on what caused the ship to go down. We're told about 350 people were on board. Australian officials say 238 passengers have been rescued so far.

The United Nations Security Council is still working on a revised resolution on Syria. The document no longer contains explicit language about Arab League plans for President Bashar al-Assad to transfer power. And that's a major concession to Russia in order to avoid it using its veto power.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby told our Hala Gorani that a watered-down resolution is better than none at all.


NABIL EL-ARABY, ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY-GENERAL: They do not want any reference to military intervention and no one is speaking about that. They don't want any reference to sanctions, and no one speaks about sanctions as such.

They don't want the Arab peace plan, which says that the president delegates power to the vice president. We didn't ask that the president should step down, but only to delegate powers to the vice president, which actually, according to their constitution-

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: GORANI: You know, there is a joke now that says Bashar al-Assad is going to demote himself to vice president.


GORANI: You know, because that's how seriously people are taking this, you know?

EL-ARABY: I didn't (inaudible).

GORANI: Right. They're saying it's just toothless. It's going to lead to nothing. This regime is going to continue to employ violence, because it's the only way it knows to deal with opposition. Do you think that's true?

EL-ARABY: Well, up to now, it's true.


EL-ARABY: But you have to refer that to the world we are living in.

GORANI: And if this resolution is passed and Russia removes every little reference to possible sanctions, possible intervention, possible pressure, then what good will that resolution do?

EL-ARABY: It will still put pressure on the Syrian government, because they realize that Russia cannot stand up forever. And they are under great pressure now. And you know, Russia does not want to be against the people.


VERJEE: A woman linked to the captain of the doomed Costa Concordia says that she's in love with him. That's according to reports in Italian newspapers, which quote statements Domnica Cemortan gave to investors.

Captain Francesco Schettino, a married father, is under house arrest and facing charges. Schettino was seen dining with the Moldovan dancer just before the ship sank. Rescuers have recovered 17 bodies. Another 15 are missing and presumed dead.

Prince William is in the Falklands. He arrived today for a tour of duty as a Royal Air Force search and rescue pilot. The deployment will last six weeks. Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, sparking a six- week war with Britain, which claimed hundreds of lives on both sides. Britain retained control of the islands, which are disputed today.

Now some good news, we're taking you to the far side of the moon. Yes, take a look at these pictures. These are the very first images beamed back from NASA's Grail orbiters, named EBB -- or rather Ebb and Flow.

This is a rare view because, as NASA explains, the same side of the moon's always facing the Earth. The space agency says you can actually see the marks left from what it calls an ancient cosmic impact.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN. Coming up on the show, the sporting world reacts to Egypt's deadly football riots. We're going to talk about how the violence impacts on players and on fans. And saving Seattle sea lions, why a conservation group is offering a big reward to help catch a killer. Stay with CNN.


VERJEE: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD live from London. Welcome back. I'm Zain Verjee. The Egyptian stadium carnage is always going to be remembered as a devastating football tragedy, but it's really much more than just about football, because it's going to affect the fans and the players the most. Don Riddell joins us now with a little more on that. Don?

DON RIDDELL, ANCHOR, "WORLDSPORT": Zain, thanks very much. Egypt's national team is the most successful in Africa, having won the Africa Cup of Nations a record seven times. They haven't qualified for the current event, which is being played in Gabon in Equatorial Guinea. But the entire football community in Egypt is in the thoughts of the players, coaches and fans at that tournament right now.


FRANCOIS ZAHOUI, IVORY COAST COACH (through translator): It actually makes us go cold, when we know what we want to bring to people through football and when we see sadness around the stadium with dead people. It is not the image of football we want to promote.

RIDDELL: Al-Ahly, the biggest team in Egypt, having won the African equivalent of the Champions League on numerous occasions, their millions of fans are in shock today, and their players are wondering if they can ever play again.

We've been speaking with an expert on the football in Middle East, James Montague, who thinks it will be some time before the football community can think again about the game they love.

JAMES MONTAGUE, AUTHOR AND CNN CONTRIBUTOR: At the moment, thinking about the league, I mean, we were talking earlier about players saying they want to -- they want to retire after seeing the goalkeeper of Al-Ahly talking about how he saw a fan die in front of him on the -- on the -- in the treatment table, and you know, you can't imagine what it's like to play football after something like that. So the league's a mess at the moment. I can't see it really resuming any time soon.

RIDDELL: We just can imagine what effect an experience like that would have on you, to have been a fan or a player or a member of the security forces inside that stadium last night. It must have been absolutely terrifying.

The club itself says it will continue, and one of its senior executives believes that the players who said they would retire will perhaps think again.

KHALED MORTAGY, AL-AHLY BOARD MEMBER: They're so in very bad shape in terms of morale, what they've seen. They've seen people die in the dressing rooms, which is normally -- eventually doesn't happen in sport -- in the sports world. So I think they have been under a lot of stress. I think the statement that they said yesterday was a bit more being under stress.

Al-Ahly's the Manchester United of Egypt. We have over 60 million fans and supporters. And I don't think that the players will leave these stands, because, again, the fans need them and they need the fans, and I hope that this is only the statement, again, said just because of people under stress.

RIDDELL: That's just, oh, such an awful incident for so many reasons. We'll have more on this story for you in "WORLDSPORT" in just over an hour's time, Zain.

VERJEE: Thanks a lot, Don.

Still to come here on CONNECT THE WORLD, a deadly chill spreads right across Europe. Hundreds head for shelters as temperatures plunge. But is the worst still to come? Plus military muscle versus media might, how powerful is Pakistan's press? We're going to bring you a special report from Islamabad.

And later on Groundhog Day, find out why this furry animal made a crowd of thousands boo. All that and more just ahead when CONNECT THE WORLD continues. This is CNN.



VERJEE: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD on CNN. Time now for a check on the world headlines.

Four people were killed when a car bomb exploded in front of a police station in southern Colombia. At least 30 people were wounded in the blast in the town of Villa Rica. Many of the injured were patients at a nearby hospital. It's the second bombing in Colombia in two days.

Egyptian officials now say at least 442 people have been injured in clashes in Cairo. Protesters tried to march on the Interior Ministry, but were pushed back by riot police. Demonstrators are furious that authorities failed to stop Wednesday's football stadium riots that killed 79 people.

Rescuers are scouring the waters off Papua New Guinea after a passenger ferry sank. No word on what caused the ship to go down. About 350 people were onboard. Australian authorities say 238 passengers have been rescued so far.

Britain's Prince William has arrived in the Falkland Islands, the territory that Argentina calls the Malvinas. Britain calls it a routine military deployment, but Argentina calls it, quote, "a provocation." Argentina fought and lost a war with Britain over the disputed islands 30 years ago.

Europe is in the grips of a deadly cold spell, as frigid air from Siberia continues to spread across the continent. Relentless sub-zero temperatures have killed more than 160 people. Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance now has more on Europe's worst cold outbreak in decades.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Europe, the big freeze is grinding this continent to a halt. On the Romanian coast, parts of the Black Sea actually froze over, encasing entire ships in thick ice.

On land, the army was called in to rescue hundreds of travelers stranded by blizzards as the country's leaders voiced their concerns.

EMIL BOC, PRIME MINISTER OF ROMANIA (through translator): Our main goal is to save people's lives. This must be our main goal.

CHANCE: Elsewhere, regions unaccustomed to such icy temperatures are recording record lows. Northern Italy is witnessing conditions not seen in more than 25 years. In the south of France, children enjoy the snowfall while palm trees fringing the Mediterranean sag under the weight of ice.

"We're happy we have snow," says this resident. "We don't really ever see it."

But further north, they've seen too much. Poland and Ukraine are bearing the brunt of this piercing winter, in temperatures plunging below minus 30 degrees Centigrade, dozens have lost their lives, mainly the homeless and elderly.

Emergency shelters have been set up to get the vulnerable off the streets, though many appear resigned to the bleak conditions.

"This isn't the first winter like this here, nor will it be the last," says this man. "Poland will not move south somehow," he says.

But further south, in the Balkans, it's no better. Thousands of villagers are cut off by snow and blizzards. Helicopters have been deployed by Serbia to rescue the stranded, but many remain beyond reach as this frigid European winter tightens its grip.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


VERJEE: And the frosty weather looks set to travel southwards. Let's go over to our meteorologist, Jen Delgado, who's at the International Weather Center with more. Hi, Jen.

JENNIFER DELGADO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Zain, you're right. We're going to talk more about what is happening across parts of Europe as well as Eurasia.

Right now, we're looking at temperatures -- these are current temperatures, not wind chills. Look right now. It's minus 22 in Moscow, minus 26 in Kiev, 21 in Warsaw, you get the idea, there. All this cold air is in place through parts of Eastern Europe, spreading west into parts of Central Europe, as well as down towards the south.

Now, it's going to be cold tonight, it's going to be cold tomorrow. Look at these high temperatures, still running in some locations about 10 to 20 below average for this time of the year. For tomorrow, we're only going to squeeze out minus 14 for a high in Kiev. The same for Bucharest. Minus 7 in Vienna.

And people have been asking, what is going on? Well, we're dealing with a very strong ridge of high pressure just set up right on top of parts of Russia. And what this ridge of high pressure's doing, it's pulling in all of this cold Siberian air, so it's spreading down towards the south, over towards the west.

People including France as well as into parts of England also dealing with this cold weather, and it looks like right now, we're actually on what we call a negative phase. And when we have these negative phases, it produces colder air in those higher latitudes. I'm talking up towards the north.

And what this does, this means weaker polar winds, and this means more frequent cold air outbreaks. And this has a direct impact on our temperatures.

And this graph right here is really going to help you kind of visualize exactly what I'm talking about. When we're in a negative phase, this is what we're in right now. You can see, we've been in this phase for, really, from about January the 15th over towards current time.

Now, if we look back, if you remember when we didn't have any snow, it was very warm on the slopes in Europe. Well, we were in a positive phase, and that was with that mild, early winter.

So now that we're in this period, as we said, this could last for several days as well as weeks, when we talk about the negative phase.

Now, that doesn't mean your temperatures aren't going to warm up, but they're going to stay cold throughout the upcoming weekend.

In addition to the cold air, of course, we're talking about some very heavy snowfall. That's going to continue to come down in the Balkan peninsula. That means for Italy, more heavy snow there.

And what this is going to do -- you saw some video coming out of Matthew Chance, it's going to cripple travel. Of course, it's going to be a deadly outbreak with this cold air in place, and more snow over the next 48 hours.

Look at some of the totals, here. We're talking in some locations about 25 to 45 to 60 to 73 centimeters of snowfall for Sarajevo. For Bucharest, 5.9. For Belgrade, 43 centimeters.

And we have some video coming to you, and we want to leave you with this to give you an idea of the conditions that people are dealing with. The video right now actually coming to us and it's basically showing how people are shoveling out, and they are so strapped with bad weather in place. And as we said, it's a very deadly situation.

And Zain, I have some bad news for you. It looks like even for England, we're going to see a round of snow possibly working in on Sunday. So you have been prepped. Make sure you dress properly, and make sure you're protecting your head, your hands, everything. Or just stay in the house. I think you would do that.

VERJEE: I think I can, too. Great advice, though, Jen Delgado. Appreciate it.

DELGADO: All right, thank you.

VERJEE: Romania is among the countries hardest hit by the big freeze. Now, take a look at these pictures. They show the capital, Bucharest, at a standstill last week. Journalist and iReporter Cosmin Stan took these images, and he joins me now.

Cosmin, we've been seeing these pictures, so many other pictures all across Eastern Europe, but you're right there in the middle of it. Tell us what it feels like.

COSMIN STAN, CNN IREPORTER: Oh, it is cold, Zain. It is really, really cold. After last week's heavy snowfalls and blizzard you see on this pictures I sent in, we had an incredible cold here, with temperatures plummeting to minus 23 degrees Celsius in Bucharest, or minus 32.5 degrees up in Tulcea, Bazua, in central Romania.

And you know what? That's only 6 degrees to the record low we ever had in here, minus 38 degrees back in 1942.

Usually, it is cold in this part of the world, especially at this time of the year, January, February. But not that cold. Meteorologists say that the average low should be for this time minus 12 degrees.

The worst part is that the death toll has risen here to 22, 8 people only losing their lives last night because of the cold, the Health Ministry has announced today.

VERJEE: Cosmin, give us an idea, though, of exactly how you're coping, how other people around you are coping. Are you just staying home as much as possible, or -- I mean, you have to go out and get milk and bread and medicines and basics.

STAN: We have this really bad experience last week with thousands of people being stuck in their cars on the roads closed by the massive snowfalls. Some of them spent two or three --


STAN: -- freezing cars. Some of them were lucky to be saved by the emergency rescue teams. Me myself, I couldn't get out of my neighborhood that day last week because the roads were closed by the snow and blizzard.

And you can see that right in the pictures I sent, and you see that car being stuck in the snow. That wasn't the only one. In the other pictures I sent, you cannot see much because of the blizzard. Everything is white. And here and there, there's a snow machine trying to --


STAN: -- of course, totally unsuccessfully. Anyway, I've been right there in the strong wind, and I listen to others who were trapped again into this --


STAN: -- storm, and they said it was like a nightmare. Of course, in the last days, things were getting better, but we had a lot of problems because of the cold weather.

It has been dangerous, both the snowfalls and the cold that followed. As I said, 20 people died so far. Others have suffered hypothermia, dozens have been isolated for tons of flights that were canceled --



STAN: Roads are closed, and of course, all activities have been disrupted.

VERJEE: Cosmin Stan, thank you so much for sharing your stories, your observations, and your pictures with us. Thank you.

If you've got images of the snow and the ice, we'd really like to hear from you, as well. All you need to do is to go to and then click on the iReport logo. Then, just post your photos, your videos, and just tell us what's happening in your area. We'd really like to hear from you.

Still to come here on CONNECT THE WORLD, Pakistan's political landscape could soon change if prosecutors get their way. The prime minister is summoned by the Supreme Court. We'll bring you details when we return.


VERJEE: Turmoil tonight at the top of Pakistani politics, which could bring down the prime minister and his government. The lawyer for Yousef Raza Gilani says he's been summoned to the Supreme Court on a contempt charge.

Mr. Gilani continues to reject a court order to reopen corruption cases allegedly involving the president, Asif Ali Zardari, and others.

In 2003, a Swiss court convicted Mr. Zardari, along with his late wife and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, of laundering millions of dollars. Pakistan granted a controversial amnesty in 2007, only to have it ruled unconstitutional by the country's Supreme Court two years later.

The case has haunted Gilani ever since, so last month, he was asked to explain his actions to judges, and he said the head of state is immune from prosecution.

A former chief justice of Pakistan has told CNN that the maximum sentence for a contempt charge is six months in prison, and even if Mr. Gilani were convicted, he would not necessarily lose his job, because that's up to Pakistan's election board to decide.

Becky Anderson spoke to the prime minister last Friday, and he explained his decision not to investigate the president along with his thoughts on a potential jail term.


YOUSUF RAZA GILANI, PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: Since a long time for us, the president had all of the -- had completed about eight years in prison.

And now, as the president of a country, he has complete immunity, and therefore, the court decided to send a letter to the Swiss courts, which we said, according to the constitution, he has complete immunity, not only inside Pakistan, but also a transnational immunity, not only for the president, the prime minister, and even the foreign minister.


GILANI: If the court so desires, I have no objection.


VERJEE: The Supreme Court summons puts more strain on an already fractious relationship. Civilian and security leaders are also at loggerheads, fueling speculation about a military coup, but the media has a role to play, as well, as CNN's Reza Sayah reports.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Pakistan, the army has long been viewed as the most powerful and feared institution. But a new power has stormed onto the scene: a remarkably free and fiery news media.

MEHER BOKHARI, ANCHOR, DUNYA TV: Media is very powerful in Pakistan today.

SAYAH: Led by star anchors.

BOKHARI: Good evening, everybody. You're watching --

SAYAH: Who draw millions of viewers and call themselves "watchdogs of democracy."

HAMID MIR, ANCHOR, GEO TV: I believe that as a journalist, I must support democracy.

SAYAH: And they say they have the Pakistani army's attention.

SAYAH (on camera): Do you think when your show comes on, the military leaders watch you?

MIR: I know it.

SAYAH: Eleven years ago, not many people paid attention to Pakistani media. That's when state-owned PTV dominated the airwaves.

SAYAH (voice-over): But in 2001, the government opened the media markets, granting licenses to private channels. Today, more than 80 channels broadcast 24 hours a day, often hounding politicians and holding screaming debates about Pakistan's leadership.

BOKHARI: There is so much strength, because now, it's not just one or two people, there's not -- it's not just one TV channel or two TV channels. There's a mushroom growth . There's so many of us. It's amazing and it's insane at the same time.

SAYAH: Insane because the media boom has brought questionable tactics to win viewers, like gaudy graphics of tragic events, including this plane crash in 2010 that killed 152 people.

This week, a TV host was fired for playing moral police. She ambushed unmarried couples chatting in a park, calling their behavior "un-Islamic." Viewers were outraged.

SAYAH (on camera): But many here also credit the media for defending democracy by increasingly standing up to the Pakistani army.

SAYAH (voice-over): In 2007, the media stood up to military ruler Pervez Musharraf after he sacked a Supreme Court justice and shut down several private channels.

More recently, they've reported on alleged kidnappings and murders by Pakistan's shadowy spy agencies, allegations the agencies deny. And many analysts say Pakistan will not see its fourth military coup because the media is watching.

MIR: My real strength is my viewers and my readers. If they are with me, then I can stand up in front of the military and I can say that I believe in democracy.

SAYAH (on camera): Playing the role of government watchdog hasn't been easy for Pakistan's journalists. In 2011, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists ranked Pakistan as the deadliest country for reporters.

SAYAH (voice-over): Human rights groups accused Pakistan's military spy agencies last year of killing Saleem Shahzad, a journalist who wrote stinging reports about the army. The army rejects the accusation.

Even so, journalists here say the threat is real, but they also say this is no time to back down.

MIR: If I will be afraid, then I should not be a journalist.

SAYAH: Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.


VERJEE: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. When we come back, the animal rights activist declared a terrorist.


PAUL WATSON, CAPTIAN, SEA SHEPHERD: I'm actually quite proud to be on that list, because China has placed the Dalai Lama on that list, and in a world where the Dalai Lama is terrorist, I don't mind being one.


VERJEE: Paul Watson tells us why he won't back down it the Whale Wars. That's in tonight's Big Interview, up next


VERJEE: Two months, seven suspected killings, and now, a $10,000 reward. Federal investigators in the United States are baffled by an apparent shooting spree targeting sea lions in Seattle. Yes, sea lions. The animals are often considered a nuisance by local commercial fishermen, but they're also a protected species, and killing just one could attract a $20,000 fine.

One environmental group's especially keen to see that penalty paid. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's put up a reward for any information that leads to a conviction in the case.

The Sea Shepherd group has long been fighting to uphold laws that protect the ocean's endangered species. Most famous are its battles with Japanese whalers in the southern ocean, a showdown that is playing out as we speak. Max Foster spoke to the Sea Shepherd's captain, Paul Watson, just ahead of this year's mission to the Antarctic to find out what's at stake.


MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A battle in one of the world's most unforgiving places. Animal activists on one side, Japanese whalers on the other in what's become a dangerous annual showdown know as the Whale Wars.

WATSON: I call what we do aggressive non-violence, and I adhere to the same philosophy of non-violence as Martin Luther King who said you cannot commit an act of violence against a non-sentient object.

And also, one of our supporters is the Dalai Lama, and he sent us a little statue, which is right here on the bridge, called Hayagriva, and when I asked him what it meant, he says it's the symbol for the compassion aspect of Buddha's wrath.

And I asked him what that meant, he said, "Oh, you never want to hurt anybody, but sometimes when they cannot see enlightenment, scare the hell out of them until they do."

FOSTER: Captain Paul Watson flies a pirate flag. His battles with whalers in the southern ocean has seen ships sunk. This video captures the moment the Japanese collided with a Sea Shepherd vessel in February, 2010.

Tactics on both sides have been criticized, and the activists have even faced criminal charges. The Japanese insist their whale hunts in the Antarctic are for scientific research. They also see this as foreign interference in a cultural tradition, and have declared Watson a terrorist.

WATSON: According to Japan, I'm on the blue list for Interpol, which means I'm a legal terrorist. I'm not wanted for anything. I have no criminal record. But it's got to the point these days where anybody who disagrees with anybody just simply calls them a terrorist.

So, I'm actually quite proud to be on that list, because China has placed the Dalai Lama on that list, and in a world where the Dalai Lama's a terrorist, I don't mind being one.

FOSTER: Watson claims he's winning the high seas battle, with the government-subsidized Japanese fleets dwindling in size year after year. Japan says it's a safety issue. Even so, the clashes have escalated this season, and at this point, neither side is showing any sign of surrender.

WATSON: I don't think that there's any reason for whaling to exist in the 21st century. We've been destroying whales for 300, 400 years now, and we practically wiped many of the species out.

I think that what we're dealing with here is a very, very highly intelligent, socially complex sentient creature, and I think that one day we'll be able to communicate with them using computers. They have very evolved brains, and a very complex communication system, and I just -- I look on the killing of whales as murder.

We're in business, actually, to put ourselves out of business, so when the governments of the world can get together to enforce international conservation law, then I don't think there will be a need for us to do what we're doing.

We have all the laws, the treaties, and rules we need to protect the oceans, but we simply don't have the economic or political motivation on the part of governments to enforce them. So, we need enforcement.


VERJEE: In tonight's Parting Shots, it's that time of year. Again.


BILL MURRAY AS PHIL, "GROUNDHOG DAY": Rita, if you only had one day to live, what would you do with it.

ANDIE MACDOWELL AS RITA, "GROUNDHOG DAY": I don't know, Phil. What are you dying of.

MURRAY AS PHIL: No. I mean, the whole world is about to explode. What do you do?


VERJEE: What would you do? Think about it. Good question. But what you don't want to do is disappoint the crowd the way the world-famous groundhog did. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six more weeks of winter it must be!



VERJEE: Oh, no! Punxsutawney Phil, booed after being yanked from his burrow early today during the annual tradition in the USA to Pennsylvania. And because he saw his shadow, tradition says winter will continue to overshadow February and most of March. Boo!

I'm Zain Verjee, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thanks so much for watching. The world headlines and "BackStory" up next after this short break. Stay with CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six more weeks of winter it must be!