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CNN'S AMANPOUR

Libya's Democracy Teetering; Pakistan's Coming Election; Guantanamo Bay Hunger Strike Continues

Aired May 7, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET

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


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. And tonight, two years after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's shaky democracy is teetering.

For days now, gangs of armed men have surrounded key ministries, trying to force out members of the democratically-elected government. Libya bucked the Arab Spring trend last year and elected mostly moderates. Now, though, militants are trying to grab the power they didn't win in the election.

On the surface, this is about the militias demanding that Gadhafi-era officials be banned from government. And legislators caved, agreeing to pass the so-called political isolation law just two days ago. This could purge a third of Congress, including long-time opposition leaders like parliament speaker, a former president, Mohamed Magarief (ph), who happened once to be a Gadhafi ambassador.

Now what all this demonstrates is Libya's struggle still to rein in the militia groups menacing the country. And now, most alarmingly, AQIM, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, is taking full advantage of this vacuum and moving in.

In a moment, I'll speak with the Libyan justice minister, Salah Marghani, who's been forced to evacuate his own ministry.

But first, a look at the other stories we're covering tonight.

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AMANPOUR (voice-over): Breaking the silence in Guantanamo: one detainee's powerful declaration that speaks for all the hunger strikers.

And the changing face of the Middle East: a symbol of power and virility returns with a vengeance.

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AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit. But first, we go straight to Libya and the Libyan justice minister Salah Marghani is on the front lines of this unfolding crisis, because his ministry has been surrounded for a week now by armed militias and he was forced to flee the building and do his work elsewhere. I spoke to him moments ago by phone.

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AMANPOUR: -- thank you for joining me from Tripoli.

SALAH MARGHANI, LIBYAN JUSTICE MINISTER: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Marghani, it does sound like an extraordinary situation, your ministry was surrounded; the foreign ministry was. There seems to be threats that ministers from oil to industry to all across the spectrum may simply be turfed out, and they're trying to get at the prime minister as well.

How big of a political crisis is this?

MARGHANI: It's obviously -- the country is going through a terrible fear, the political period and security uncertainty. In terms of having armed groups surrounding ministries such as the foreign ministry and the justice ministry, however we were lucky enough that there were no used weaponry yet.

And I hope this will not -- this will not happen. But with the appearance of weaponry, with the appearance of the threat of force, this is a problem. And I hope that it would go soon. The government sermon on its rejection of any -- of provision of any confessions and threat of the use of force, we will not -- we will not change our course.

AMANPOUR: I can hear you saying you will not respond by violence.

But let me ask you to describe what exactly is going on. Many are saying that this is just a naked political power grab and it's a subversion of democracy, particularly this man, Osama Kabar, who seems to be the leader of the biggest of these armed gangs.

MARGHANI: I think legitimacy and the Libyan people are standing behind the government because it is a legitimate government that was elected by the Libyan people through the general national Congress.

That is a situation; it is a standoff, a struggle between growing the right way and maybe falling back to the area of dictatorship. But I assure you that the situation is under control and the government will not yield.

AMANPOUR: All right. You say it's under control. I would like to play you a little bit of an interview that I did with Mahmoud Jibril who was, as of course you know, Libya's opposition wartime prime minister. This is what he told me almost a year ago.

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MAHMOUD JIBRIL, LIBYA'S WARTIME PRIME MINISTER: I think the biggest challenge right now is to convince our potential partner, especially the Islamist forces with the fact that now it's time that we sit around one table and talk about one destiny that's the interest of the Libyan people.

Consensus is the name of the game. It has nothing to do with who prevails in those elections and who does not prevail.

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AMANPOUR: Well, you heard what Mr. Jibril said; that consensus is the name of the game and that is what needs to happen. A former opposition leader, Mr. Tarhouni, Ali Tarhouni, also told me that he wouldn't even run for prime minister because his medicine was going to be too tough, that it was considered too tough, in other words, his ideas for reining in these militias.

Do you think the government missed an opportunity to rein in these militias early?

MARGHANI: Well, maybe. Maybe it did. I don't know. There was a previous government but this government have tried, not defending the government (inaudible), but it had tried. The huge amount of weaponry in the country is providing many, many elements of people with the necessary - - the armory to form their own groups.

There are so many groups. But I think by passage of time, with some patience, with, say, with more of a firm stand by the government, the situation can be resolved. I did not give up yet, but we need to be patient and we need to stay on the right path. We will not -- we should not blink first.

AMANPOUR: All right. Those are fighting words. And in the meantime, let me ask you this, that there are increasing reports that Libya is becoming increasingly militant, that in fact, it is increasingly a safe area for Al Qaeda to regroup and regenerate itself. We've heard those reports coming even from your own country, even from intelligence officials in your own country.

How concerned are you about that aspect?

MARGHANI: Yes. I am concerned about this, of course, I'm very concerned. But I think if we are given the chance to address the basic issues of the society, to make sure that you have the people to get jobs, to make sure that democracy prevails, Libyan people would see the benefit of democracy and the freedom.

Believe me, the Libyan people did revolt against this tyrancy (sic) and they will not accept another tyrancy (sic) under any banner, of any comers whatever it is.

AMANPOUR: Minister Marghani, thank you very much for joining me.

MARGHANI: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And now for that troubled and challenged democracy in Libya, we turn to attempt to shore up democracy in Pakistan and new elections. Tonight, though, the country is on the edge of its seat, wondering when their most famous politician and, of course, cricket superstar Imran Khan will be back on the campaign trail.

He took a dramatic at a campaign rally today, which you can see in that footage there. And he, Khan, is one of the two front-runners for prime minister in historic elections to be held this weekend. They'll be Pakistan's first-ever democratic transition of power.

And joining me live from Pakistan is our correspondent, Saima Mohsin.

Saima, we understand that Imran Khan has injured and perhaps fractured some of his vertebrae in his back and that he's heavily bruised. What more can you tell us about him?

SAIMA MOHSIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, doctors have confirmed that he suffered two fractures to his spine. They say that he hasn't suffered any kind of neurological or long-term damage in that sense. But two fractures to his spine; he's received a number of stitches to his skull.

This, of course, came after that rather dramatic fall as he was being lifted by a forklift truck to a top of a container around about 20 foot high. It seems that somehow he and his guards who were alongside him lost their footing.

As they came, they were holding onto each other, they came tumbling down amidst the crowds who were waiting Imran Khan to speak at that election rally. And I've been told by the spokesman in the hall where he was today that the guards actually fell on top of him.

And as he came down, he hit an iron rod, which is what caused those injuries to his head and to his back. Miraculously, those guards escaped unscathed. But Imran Khan is in hospital with two fractures to his spine.

AMANPOUR: So they do say that in general he's all right; he has been speaking and he was quoted from his hospital bed, really urging people to come out and to participate in the elections.

But what do we think about when he will be back on the campaign trail?

MOHSIN: Not any time soon, doctors have advised complete bedrest for him. And this obviously comes at a very critical time for him in this election campaign, just days to go. Pakistan's people go to vote on Saturday on the 11th of May in this very critical election in Pakistan's history. In fact, as you mentioned, this is a crucial time for democracy in Pakistan.

He's been advised complete bedrest. And so he won't be back up on his feet. But he did give a very emotive speech, as you mentioned, saying that people must come out on the 11th of May. They must vote for whoever they want to vote for. Of course, he said that they should vote for his party and his ideology and what he stands for.

But he said in a very frank and almost kind of like he's not able to come back on that campaign trail, to say that I have done all I can for my country. It's now time for the people of Pakistan to take responsibility. You must face and change your own destiny.

So very emotive, powerful speech and very much like a leader that he's starting to become, that we've seen him in that progression of cricketer, turning into politician over the last 17 years. And he's certainly enjoyed much more success over the last few weeks. There were hundreds if not thousands of people in that crowd waiting to speak to him.

By the way, Christiane, that was the first of seven election rallies that he'd planned for today alone.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Just quickly and finally, he is amongst the two front-runners. What do the polls say about who they think are going to win? And will this go off as everybody hoped, peaceful, democratic transition for the first time in Pakistan's history?

MOHSIN: He is a hot favorite and very popular among the people. But the front-runner is very much Nawaz Sharif. We haven't had any recent polls to suggest otherwise. And Nawaz Sharif, in one of his election rallies today, by the way, has said that he's postponing his own rallies in respect for Imran Khan, because he can't come out and campaign, either. So he's trying to give him a level playing field.

But as you mentioned, there hasn't really been a level playing field here because we've had threats by the Taliban against a very secular, liberal party, the ANP (ph), the PPP, the outgoing government here and the MQM in the south in Karachi. We've seen campaign offices being bombed; we've had politicians assassinated and gunned down.

In fact, I was in Peshawar (ph) today, talking to the ANP (ph), talking about what a struggle it has been that they haven't been able to go out. But Imran Khan has managed to get out there and pull in those crowds. But for now it seems that all these election rallies may well be off until Saturday when the people of Pakistan go to the polls.

AMANPOUR: Saima Mohsin, thank you, and Imran Khan, obviously a friend of this show; we've had him on many times and we wish him well. We also wish the Pakistani democratic process well.

And after a break, we'll turn to the ongoing crisis in Guantanamo. The hunger strikers there have been silent, letting their lawyers speak for them until now. You'll hear the powerful words of one of the detainees when we come back.

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AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. And as we've been reporting throughout this week and last, the hunger strike by more than 100 detainees has focused the world's attention again on that legal black hole that is the Guantanamo Bay prison.

President Obama has certainly taken notice. In a press conference last week, he reaffirmed his commitment to close Guantanamo. And he challenged Congress to step up and help get it done.

But critics charge that there are things the president could do today to change the situation. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the 166 detainees say they would rather starve than spend another day in limbo.

One of them is an Afghan man, now in his early 30s, known only as Obadullah. Obadullah's only daughter was born just two days before he was taken into custody. She'll be 11 this summer, and we're told that she cries for the father she has never seen.

In March, Obadullah wrote a detailed account of his hunger strike, which was just recently declassified by the Department of Justice. He writes, quote, "I'm losing all hope because I've been imprisoned at Guantanamo for almost 11 years now, and I still do not know my fate."

So Capt. Jason Wright is a U.S. Army officer whose job it is to defend the detainees in military tribunals. He represents Obadullah, the lowest on Guantanamo's legal totem pole. And the highest value detainee, the 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is also one of Capt. Wright's clients.

He joins me now from Washington.

Captain, thank you for joining me.

CAPT. JASON WRIGHT, U.S. ARMY, ATTORNEY: Thank you for this opportunity.

AMANPOUR: I think there is no doubt about the guilt of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and he will eventually one day maybe see his day in court.

But let me ask you about Obadullah. We have just delivered his case on camera. Is he charged with anything? Is he deemed by the legal system to be guilty of anything right now?

WRIGHT: He has not been charged, at least as of today, by the U.S. government. And we've been informed that there are no plans to bring charges against him for the, quote, "foreseeable future." Right now, he's facing the prospect of indefinite detention.

AMANPOUR: I mean, you know, it really boggles my mind, that even though I've been reporting this for a long time, I want you to walk me through how he even managed to end up in Guantanamo in the first place.

WRIGHT: Yes, in 2002, in Afghanistan, in the province of Khost, Afghanistan -- Obadullah was living with his family. And during the nighttime hours, U.S. forces raided his home, based on a single source intelligence report that there were mines in the area and that he may have been part of some sort of bomb cell.

At this point, he was taken into custody by U.S. forces and transferred to various places within Afghanistan and then eventually sent to Guantanamo Bay in October of 2002. He is -- there's no allegation that he has ever attacked anyone, ever harmed anyone.

Instead, the U.S. government contends that there are approximately 20 land mines located near his family's compound across the street, and they've attributed those land mines to him. And secondly, they claim that he had a notebook on him that had some sort of rudimentary diagrams of land mines.

AMANPOUR: So what can you tell me about that stuff? Because from what I read and from the statements that have come out, some of that military equipment was left over from the Soviet time, predated 9/11 that was found by his compound.

WRIGHT: That's right. Obadullah needs a day in court.

We recently had a defense investigation with a very senior level investigator to Afghanistan and it covered a great deal of exculpatory information or otherwise information that exonerates him about the nature of the land mines, the fact that they were Soviet grade; they were very likely left during the period of the Soviet occupation and also it calls into question a lot of the single source intelligence against him.

But this young man has now been detained indefinitely for 11 years and cannot even get a day in court to plead this case.

AMANPOUR: So you say he can't get a day in court. But from also what I know and what you've told -- what you've reported is that the U.S. government or the system has dropped the charges against him anyway two years ago.

WRIGHT: Exactly. And the only charges that the administration could potentially bring would be those of what's called material support to terrorism and also conspiracy.

And recently, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down those two alleged war crimes as a matter of law, saying that it was a violation of the ex post facto's clause, essentially to have these two crimes as part of the Military Commissions Act.

So he very much is stuck in this legal limbo and that we believe is fully innocent of any wrongdoing. And, again, he was never been -- never claimed to have hurt or harmed any Americans or any Afghans or anyone, for that matter.

AMANPOUR: And who was basically taken in because an informant tipped off the authorities and who knows why, maybe for money or whatever.

WRIGHT: Correct.

AMANPOUR: What can the system do for Obadullah right now? Because President Obama does have the executive authority to be able to transfer people like him. Why is he not doing that?

WRIGHT: I was encouraged to hear President Obama last week, ask the American people why are we doing this? And you're right. I think the next question is what can we do about it.

And when it comes to Obadullah, an Afghan villager, and the other 16 Afghans, I think President Obama can work with President Karzai to come up with a good solution to send these men home. That's fully within his power, I believe, to do that, to work with the government, the legitimate government of Afghanistan, to send their citizens home.

The same can be said of the other 86 detainees who have been cleared for release, who are innocent, who have done nothing wrong in terms of the American government, who can also be sent back to their home countries or otherwise repatriated. That's within the president's administration authority.

AMANPOUR: And what is Obadullah's condition right now, because he is one of the more than 100 on strike, on hunger strike.

WRIGHT: That's right. I have seen him several times since the strike began, and his condition continues to worsen. I'm very troubled with the loss of his weight, the degree of hopelessness that is pervasive at the camp.

The administration has responded to the hunger strike by actually increasing the severity of the conditions of confinement by reducing the temperature in the cells, by taking away communal living, by according to recent accounts from Obadullah, by denying him the opportunity to use soap and a toothbrush and restricting his access to the outdoors to one or two hours a day and modulating that such that sometimes he's only permitted to go out at 1:00 am or 3:00 am. And so it's just -- it's really disturbing that these men are suffering in such a way.

Yet their response to this has actually been to worsen their conditions of confinement.

AMANPOUR: And Captain, honestly, I am struck -- there you are, sitting before me in full military regalia, medals and ribbons, and you are talking to me about your own military, the military in Guantanamo is doing to these people what you're now complaining against and trying to get them released from.

How do you even go to work every day? It's you against your country's system.

WRIGHT: Well, they're -- I'm essentially the military's version of a court-appointed lawyer and our job is to zealously defend anyone that we represent. Obadullah is innocent until proven guilty, much like all the men in Guantanamo Bay. It's important for the rule of law to make sure that there is effective assistance and counsel.

And that's really what we're doing here, as defense attorneys, as habeas counsels. It's making sure that the principles of democracy mean something, that the rule of law means something in America. And it is an honor to work in this capacity and to make sure that the principles that our country hold so dear are being fulfilled each and every day.

AMANPOUR: Well, you're giving it a good college try and very finally, one word: do you believe that he will be released any time soon?

WRIGHT: I hope for Obadullah's sake and for the sake of the other detainees involved in the political protest, I hope that there -- someone will be released soon.

I think that would be an important step for the Obama administration to signify to the detainees and to the world that Guantanamo Bay must be closed for these men who have -- who are innocent and who have -- who need to go home to see their families. So, yes, I hope so and we look forward to hearing more from the president and working with him as he continues to develop his plan.

AMANPOUR: Captain Wright, thank you for joining me.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And we'll be back with a final thought after a break.

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AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, earlier we held up a mirror to Libya, where the Arab Spring seems a little like a distant memory. But imagine a world where the spirit of change is reflected in facial hair.

CNN and observers have been following a fascinating new trend. You can see it in the beards and mustaches of the region's leaders, but it wasn't always this way. Just a few years ago, Egypt's former president, Hosni Mubarak, was emblematic of the clean-shaven secularized Western- leaning leadership that dominated the region, until the popular uprising that swept him from power.

Today, Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan is the prototypical alpha male, as the leader of a secular state with strong Islamic leanings, he's an ally but not -- but definitely not a pawn of the West. And he bristles with the mustache favored by his ruling party.

And as Turkey's influence grows, men throughout the Middle East are flocking there in record numbers and spending thousands of dollars per visit for fuller, manlier mustaches. The procedure takes just a few hours; a doctor removes hair from other parts of the body and implants it on the upper lip, creating an instant status symbol.

Ever since the days of the Ottoman Empire, the mustache has represented power and virility. But thanks to the popularity of Turkey's hirsute singing and TV stars and the high profile of new leaders, like Mohammed Morsi, who replaced Mubarak as Egypt's president, facial hair is a political as well as a fashion statement. In other words, the mustache matters.

And that's it for tonight's program. Meantime, you can always contact us on our website, amanpour.com. Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.

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