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One Dead, 99 Missing in Florida Condo Collapse; 751 Unmarked Graves Found at Former High School; Chinese-Made Vaccines Face Efficacy Issues; Russia: British Warship Incident a 'Dangerous' Provocation; French Woman on Trial for Murder of Abusive Husband. Aired 12-12:45a ET

Aired June 25, 2021 - 00:00   ET

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


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Crews dig through the ruins of a collapsed apartment building just outside of Miami. Nearly 100 people are still missing and feared dead.

[00:00:11]

Uncovering a dark part of Canada's history, after more than 700 unmarked graves are discovered at a former school for indigenous children.

And perhaps holding off on that summer vacation. Fears the Delta variant have European leaders considering new travel restrictions.

Nearly 24 hours since the building collapsed, and search-and-rescue teams are racing against time in Surfside, Florida, to find 99 people still unaccounted for in the collapse of the Champlain Towers.

Now, part of the 12-story building pancaked down on itself early Thursday, killing at least one person. Rescuers are working through the night using listening equipment, cameras and sniffer dogs to try and find anyone buried alive in all of that rubble.

The pictures are just extraordinary. Now, slow motion surveillance video shows the moment of the collapse. You see it there. The center part of the building collapsed first, and then moments later, the tower on the right. You see it there.

Fire and rescue crews used cherry pickers to reach residents stranded on their balconies in the part of the building that actually was still standing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARRY COHEN, BUILDING RESIDENT: We opened up the door from our apartment. And there was a huge pile of rubble. And dust. And just havoc.

AARON MILES, COLLAPSE SURVIVOR: We grabbed children, and we started running out the door. And as you went down the stairway for the exit emergency ramp, everybody was screaming and panicking. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have never seen so many ambulances and police in

my life all at once. It looked like something from, like, 9/11, literally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: This is giving you an idea of what rescue workers are going through right now at this moment at this site. This video shows rescue crews inside the parking garage. They're using concrete saws to try and cut through the structure to create tunnels to reach any and all survivors.

CNN's Randi Kaye is in Surfside, Florida, tonight.

RANDI KAYE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In a matter of moments, a huge chunk of the Champlain Tower South in Surfside, Florida, collapses into a cloud of dust.

This video appears to show what happened at about 1:30 in the morning, as residents slept.

CHARLES BURKETT, SURFSIDE, FLORIDA, MAYOR: You don't see buildings falling down in America. And here we had a building literally fall down. This doesn't happen.

KAYE: The 12-story condo tower just north of Miami Beach was built in 1981. Of the more than 130 units inside, nearly half of them are now destroyed. More than 100 people have been accounted for, but officials say nearly 100 are still missing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My nephew was here with wife and three -- four children. And I'm losing hope. I'm just asking God.

KAYE: Whatever brought the building down was so strong neighbors heard it and felt it next door.

FIORELLA TERENZI, HEARD THE BUILDING COLLAPSE (via phone): I was asleep, and suddenly a loud bang, almost like a cannonball (ph) went off. It woke me up. But this rumbling was very different. Very strange. And something was not right in this sound. It was too strong, too violent. It almost felt like a shock wave coming in the next building.

KAYE: Since long before dawn, search teams have been combing through the rubble, using concrete sauce and other lifesaving equipment. Search-and-rescue dogs also helped lead the way.

Rescuers are hoping someone, anyone is still alive, trapped beneath the rubble. Earlier today, they thought they'd found someone.

JIMMY PATRONIS, FLORIDA STATE FIRE MARSHALL: They heard sounds early this morning from what they felt was somebody in the parking garage. So however the communications were made -- people in those types of situations, they will find items to make noise with, because they want to be safe. KAYE: Thirty-five people were rescued from the structure that was

still standing. Two more people were pulled from the rubble. At least four were taken to the hospital, where one died.

BURKETT: The problem is the building has literally pancaked. And it's gone down. I mean there is just feet in between stories where there were 10 feet. That is heartbreaking, because it doesn't mean to me that we're going to be successful, as successful as we would want to be in finding people alive.

[00:05:10]

KAYE: Nicholas Balboa was out walking his dog when he heard a boy in the wreckage screaming for help.

NICHOLAS BALBOA, NEIGHBOR: He was just screaming, don't leave me, don't leave me.

KAYE: Rescue teams helped pull the boy to safety, but dozens of families are still wondering about their loved ones.

JOSE "PEPE" DIAZ, CHAIRMAN, MIAMI-DADE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: This is very sad, when you are dealing with people that don't know the outcome of their family. They are very worried. They're -- they just are desperate in the sense that they want to know what's actually taking place. And we continue to try to rescue. We continue to try to find more people.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Surfside, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Now, it's important to know here that authorities are saying that not everyone who's unaccounted for is actually missing. It's getting confusing, but some may not have been home when the building collapsed.

And not everyone, of course, who's unaccounted for is a U.S. citizen or would have been registered in the building.

CNN's Matt Rivers has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we learn more and more about the victims of this partial collapse, it's becoming more and more clear that the United States is not the only country whose citizens have been affected by this tragedy.

In fact, we heard on Thursday from the foreign ministry of the south American country of Paraguay, the foreign minister saying that the sister of the first lady of Paraguay, the first lady of Paraguay's sister and her family were now unaccounted for.

After this partial collapse, the foreign ministry saying that the first lady's sister and her sister's family were staying in one of those towers on the 10th floor. They were in the country, according to the foreign ministry, to get vaccinated, with the Paraguayan government saying they spent the day checking in with various hospitals in the area to see if there was any news about the first lady's sister and her sister's family.

But unfortunately, they turned up no positive results.

But Paraguay is not the only South American country affected. In fact, we heard from other countries whose citizens have been affected and are now unaccounted for, including Uruguay, including Argentina and including Venezuela.

And we know that this is a part of south Florida where many people from South America either live permanently or visit from time to time. Unfortunately, this tragedy touching the lives of citizens from across the western hemisphere.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: So you heard Matt there. I want to give you a quick follow-up. The mayor of Surfside says he spoke -- she spoke, pardon me, just a few hours ago with the president of Paraguay, who's arriving in Florida in the day ahead. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURKETT: This is a worldwide situation, and it's a catastrophe. So the only thing that we can do is just stay focused and get as many people out as possible. And we will not stop looking until we do. That's -- that's our focus. That's all we're going to do. We're just going to focus on bringing people out of that rubble if we can. Nothing else to talk about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: OK, stay right here with CNN. We'll have any new developments as they unfold outside that building collapse in Florida, and we, of course, will keep you right up to date in the hours to come.

To Canada now, where leaders of indigenous tribes in Saskatchewan say more than 750 unmarked graves have been discovered that a former Indian residential school.

Now, officials began mapping the grounds at Marieval on June 1 after 215 graves were found in early June at a former school in British Columbia.

Now, the Canadian prime minister says the government will provide funding and resources to bring when he called these terrible wrongs to light. One tribal leader said this most recent discovery at Marieval has reopened deep wounds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHIEF CADMUS DELORME, COWESSEESS FIRST NATION: The gravesite is there, and it's real. And if you were to see it, there are 751 flags when you look at it. It is the pain of the memories of being in the school for many that it is triggering.

Bobby Cameron is the chief of Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations. He joins us from the first nation in Saskatchewan and Canada.

Chief, thanks so much for being here. And my condolences. I really can't believe what a heartbreaking day this must be for so many indigenous peoples right across Canada.

The words that you talked about today after revealing those details, you could really feel the trauma in it. And your words were quite blunt. Genocide. Concentration camps. The extermination of indigenous peoples. What do you say to people who say look, this is Canada. That can't have happened?

BOBBY CAMERON, CHIEF, FEDERATION OF SOVEREIGN INDIGENOUS NATIONS: Well, we say this to individuals that need a better understanding where to be educated on this particular subject. It happened. It is real. It is the truth. Our survivors have been telling these stories for decades, and only now the world is believing it happened. It is real. It is the truth. Our survivors have been telling these stories for decades, and only now the world is believing them, because finding these remains, you cannot deny it anymore.

NEWTON: And you were pointing to the fact that there is no evidence, and yet indigenous communities had to fight to get that evidence.

Why only now? Why is the ground-penetrating radar only being used on these sites now? It's been six years since Canada has had the report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Outlining the problem with these lost children.

CAMERON: Yes, we would like to see this for several decades. The Roman Catholic Church of Canada, the federal government of the day all tried to sweep this under the rug. And all -- all tried to hide it, when in fact, it was a brutal reality for thousands of our First Nations students. They were subjected to torture, abuse, and death. What a -- what a worldwide travesty.

And from here on in, we should be moving forward and thinking about how are we going to address and improve the quality of life for First Nations peoples right across this world?

NEWTON: And I want to ask you about that in a moment. I do want to circle back to the Catholic Church, though. Is it still the truth, that they are not handing over the records that they should be? Along with some government documents as well. We know that the pope has still refused to formally and officially apologize.

CAMERON: I will say this. There have been repeated requests and attempts from many of us right across this country, demanding that they release all school records within the church and within the -- within the federal government of Canada. Release them. Those are our properties, and we deserve the right to see them. The

whole world deserves to understand the truth. And with the release of those records, we will know the truth. To this day, it hasn't happened. So we're going to keep demanding, and we're going to keep advocating until it does happen.

NEWTON: And you are positively sure that more of these kinds of mass graves, unmarked graves will be found right around the country?

CAMERON: Well, within our region for sure. I'll say this. We have the most residential school sites here in Saskatchewan. We've had more First Nations students walk through those schools and attend those schools in Saskatchewan than the rest of Canada. Therefore, that leads to more cases of torture, abuse and death here in Saskatchewan.

We're certain. We've attended and visited many sites. And you can see with the naked eye that there are unmarked graves.

NEWTON: Yes, chilling, really, just to think about what went on in those places.

I want to ask you about -- I know that there is certainly a kinship that the Canadian indigenous peoples feel with many, many First Nations all around the world.

You know, here in the United States, the interior secretary has now started an investigation here in the United States. I mean, how important do you think that this is a worldwide effort to really illuminate the kind of, not just discrimination, but as you say, torture the First Nations people are going through today?

CAMERON: President Joe Biden, if you're listening, we implore you and we advise you to work with our brothers and sisters in the United States, because there are many unmarked graves in your country. Work with those chief and councils and those survivors to help give those bodies a proper burial.

You know, we try to think and try to put ourselves in the eyes and the bodies of these children that have been found in the ground recently. And this is what we've come up with.

A small First Nations voice whispers, They have found us. They have found us. Thank you for your time.

NEWTON: Yes, it is important to definitely, for those souls, to be put to rest properly. Again, Chief Bobby, thanks again.

CAMERON: Take care.

NEWTON: The Delta COVID variant is putting parts of Europe on high alert. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, warns the E.U. is on thin ice, in her words, as the more transmissible strain threatens the bloc's pandemic progress.

She is urging other European countries to enforce a quarantine for those traveling from regions where the variant is spreading, and that includes the U.K.

[00:15:07]

French President Emmanuel Macron echoed her sentiments, saying the block should take a coordinated approach.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We are obviously concerned about the Delta variant. I will lobby for a more coordinated approach, particularly with regard to entries from regions where virus variants abound.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): We must remain vigilant because of the Delta variant, which spreads faster than the previous variants, and we see that it affects people who are not vaccinated or who have only one dose. So that means we have to go even faster in the vaccination campaigns and above all, we have to be very coordinated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Now, while the E.U. is debating tightening some travel restrictions the British government is adding several countries to its travel green list. Malta, Spain's Balearic Islands, and several Caribbean destinations will be on the quarantine free travel list. That starts next week.

The transportation secretary says plans to further relax restrictions from amber countries, for those who have been fully vaccinated, will be announced next month.

The World Health Organization, meantime, says Africa is experiencing a third wave of coronavirus infections. The agency says the total number of new cases right across the continent has been rising for five straight weeks, and 12 countries are seeing a resurgence of cases. The agency's regional director for Africa warns that things are getting bad quickly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MATSHIDISO MOETI, WHO REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR AFRICA: The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. We've surged passed last year's peak. And at the current pace, continental cases will surpass the second wave's peak in just about three weeks.

This is incredibly worrying. With rapidly-rising case numbers, and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa's worst yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Now, many African nations are struggling to get vaccine doses. Only about 1 percent of people across the continent are fully vaccinated, and that's according to the WHO.

The agency says 29 countries have used half of their COVAX supplies. At least eight have run out altogether.

Now, some countries are seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases, as we were saying, even though they have healthy vaccination rates. Countries like Chile and Mongolia, who mainly use vaccines produced in China. This is where the problem is. David Culver has the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in China it's been difficult to test the efficacy or effectiveness of vaccines, because the country has kept strict measures in place. And we're essentially living in a sealed-off bubble with life near normal.

But other nations receiving the Chinese-made vaccines are showing surges in infection compared with those receiving U.S.-backed vaccines.

(voice-over): China's portrayed it as an act of goodwill, shipping Chinese-made vaccines to other countries, even before guaranteeing enough for its own citizens.

State media reports 350 million doses have gone out to more than 80 countries. Among the nations on the receiving end: neighboring Mongolia, and in South America, Chile. Both countries mobilized quickly to put those vaccines to use.

In Mongolia, more than 52 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. Chile, just a bit less. They are among the highest vaccination rates in the world, alongside countries like the U.S. and Israel.

But why is it that, as cases are dropping in those countries, Mongolia and Chile are seeing surges of new COVID-19 infections?

Last week, Mongolia hit a record high in daily case counts, and authorities and Chile announced a blanket lockdown across its capital, Santiago, two weeks ago.

BEN COWLING, HEAD OF EPIDEMIOLOGY AND BIOSTATISTICS, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: Some places where there's relatively good coverage and social distancing measures have been relaxed, it may be that those measures are relaxed a little bit too soon.

CULVER: One of the most striking differences, the types of vaccines. While the U.S. and Israel turn to Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna, Mongolia and Chile are relying heavily on two from China, Sinovac and Sinopharm.

My team and I, based here in China, received our two doses of Sinopharm in recent months. The efficacy rates of the Chinese-made vaccine containing inactivated virus range from about 50 percent to 79 percent, whereas U.S.-backed Pfizer and Moderna, using mRNA science, are more than 90 percent efficacious.

Though the environments in which they were all trialed varied, with different variants of the virus circulating, the American-backed ones appeared to be much better at preventing transmission compared with China's vaccines.

COWLING: Right now what we can see very clearly is the antibody level in people who received BioNTech is much higher, much, much higher than the antibody level in people who received Sinovac.

CULVER: The WHO authorized both Sinovac and Sinopharm for emergency use, despite the Chinese companies behind them providing limited clinical trial data.

[00:20:09]

But medical experts warn, while less effective, this does not mean the Chinese vaccines are a failure.

COWLING: Somewhere like Chile, somewhere like Mongolia, vaccines have saved a lot of lives. But maybe they haven't been able to stop the virus from spreading and causing mild infections in vaccinated people.

And then, of course, the potential for more severe infections in people who haven't yet been vaccinated. And that's one of the limitations of less effective vaccines.

CULVER: While overall cases in Mongolia and Chile are on the rise, the vaccines may be helping lower the severity of those cases.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you look across the board in countries that have higher vaccination rates, those hospitalization rates, those death rates, while they may move around a little bit, they're probably a lot better now than they would have been without the vaccines. Because the vaccines, more than anything else, regardless of which one it is, help protect against severe illness and death.

CULVER: To better stop the spread of the virus, countries like Bahrain and the UAE, which have also relied heavily on China's Sinopharm, are now offering their citizens a third dose as a booster.

The choices: a third shot of Sinopharm, or they can use the Pfizer vaccine as their booster.

The development and distribution of vaccines has become highly politicized, especially between the U.S. and China. And if both countries refuse to recognize each other's vaccines, that could keep you limited to crossing borders based on the vaccine you've gotten, potentially preventing international travel from returning to near normal for years to come.

(on camera): Here in China, they've recently reported having given a billion doses to folks living here, and they've recently raised their vaccination target, hoping to vaccinate as many as 85 percent of the more than 1.4 billion people living here by later this year.

But it remains unknown if they can reach herd immunity, especially given the efficacy of Chinese vaccines against the more easily- transmissible Delta variant. That's not yet known. And so, there are reports suggesting strict border measures will

remain in place well into 2022. There have been discussions by Chinese health officials to add a third dose here, along with a suggestion to mix Chinese and American vaccines, with an eye toward making them more effective.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: Russia and the United Kingdom at odds over a trip through disputed waters. What's next after Moscow warns the U.K. to stay away from Crimea.

And later, a French woman is on trial for murdering her husband, who before that was her stepfather. She says the killing was in self- defense after decades of abuse. Will the jury believe her? That story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NEWTON: Russia is warning the United Kingdom against what it calls dangerous provocations from an incident off Crimea.

Now, a British warship sailed through the disputed waters that Russia claims as its own Wednesday. Moscow says it responded by dropping bombs and firing warning shots.

[00:25:08]

Now, the U.K. disputes that account, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists the warship did nothing wrong by taking that route.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think it was wholly appropriate to use international waters.

And by the way, the important point is that we don't recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. This is part of sovereign Ukrainian territory. It was entirely right that we should vindicate the law and pursue freedom of navigation in the way we take the shortest route between two points, and that's all we did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Matthew Chance now reports from Moscow on the back and forth over the incident and what could come next.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Russians are taking this very seriously. They've summoned the British ambassador to Russia for a strong dressing down. And the Kremlin has spoken about the issue, saying that nothing is off the table when it comes to defending Russia's borders.

And it's even been that comment by the Russian deputy foreign minister threatening, essentially, to bomb targets that, should they violate Russia's territorial waters in the future.

The fundamental dispute here, of course, and it's this. That Britain, the rest of NATO, the rest of the European Union, much of the international community did not regard those waters off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula as being Russian waters. They see them as Ukrainian territory waters.

Of course, Russia annexed that region in 2014. It subsequently absorbed the Crimean Peninsula into the Russian federation, and so it regards the waters around Crimea as being Russian territorial waters. And that's a fundamental dispute that is not going to go away, no matter how many times the British or any other ship tries to assert Ukrainian sovereignty there, or how many times the Russians have to reiterate that they believe it's theirs.

It comes as well, this incident, not much longer than a week after the Putin/Biden summit in Geneva, Switzerland, where President Biden of the United States sort of laid out to Russia that it must stop its malign activity around the world.

Of course, one of the malign activities, if you like, that it was sanctioned for by the United States and by the European Union, was the annexation of Crimea. So this has yet again, sort of underlining from Moscow's point of view, the issue of Ukraine, the issue of Crimea is not something they're prepared to back down on.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: The prime minister of the Netherlands says it's time for Hungary to be expelled from E.U.

Now lawmakers in Budapest recently approved a bill bans any educational materials for children that appear to promote homosexuality or gender reassignment. Just over half of the European numbers have registered disapproval over the legislation that critics say discriminates against the gay community.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK RUTTE, DUTCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): For me, then, there is nothing for the European Union, but unfortunately, in the system that we have, I can't do it on my own. But 26 other member states are saying you have to leave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: The Hungarian prime minister has long irritated his European neighbors with hardline nationalist policies, and the LGBTQ community does not consider him a friend. Still, he insists the controversial measure is not an attack on gay rights.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER: I am a fighter for the rights. I am a freedom fighter in the communist regime. Homosexuality was punished, and I fought for their freedom and their rights. So I am defending the rights of the homosexual guys, but this law is not about that. It's about the right of the kids and the parents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: The Hungarian leader also claimed that opposition is coming from people who have not read the bill. We'll have more on that, I'm sure, in the weeks to come.

Coming up right here on CNN, loved ones suddenly taken away by police, then silently sentenced to years or decades in prison. That's what's happening right now in western China, Xinjiang province to ethnic leaders as China moves from putting them in camps to locking them away in prison.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:31:45]

NEWTON: Welcome back. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Paula Newton.

China's mass internment of ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang has spread a curtain of fear over families terrified about their loved ones held in internment camps.

Now, a recent spike in lengthy jail sentences for some of those detained is prompting distraught relatives to speak out for the very first time. A young Australian woman is among those sharing her story with CNN's Ivan Watson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Newlyweds in love. Scenes from the 2016 wedding Mehray and Merzak (ph) Mezensof in Merzak Tyre (ph). She calls him "Pumpkin." He calls her his monkey.

MEHRAY MEZENSOF, HUSBAND DETAINED IN CHINA: It was pretty much like love at first sight.

WATSON: The couple met online. Mehray was born in Australia, and Merzak (ph) is an ethnic Uyghur from China's Xinjiang region where he worked in his father's restaurant.

After their wedding in Xinjiang, the newlyweds enjoyed eight blissful months together there until Australia granted Merzak (Ph) a spouse visa. Merzak (Ph) planned to emigrate with Mehray to Australia in April 2017.

But two days before their flight from Xinjiang, Chinese police showed up at their house.

MEZENSOF: He gave them their passport and they confiscated it.

WATSON: That night the police detained Merzak (ph). MEZENSOF: You're just nearly married. You're getting ready to start

your life together, and then it just gets completely thrown upside down, and then the next thing you know your husband is in a detention center. And you can't even see him. You can't even communicate with him.

WATSON: Mehray says that marked the start of a four-year ordeal. She says Merzak (ph) was detained in internment camps for months at a time on three separate occasions while never facing any formal charges.

That is until April 1, 2021, when Merzak's (ph) parents were summoned to a detention center and informed their son had been found guilty of the crime of separatism.

MEZENSOF: That was when I received the news that they sentenced my husband to 25 years.

WATSON (on camera): Twenty-five years in prison?

MEZENSOF: I was like no. No. That's not happening. I was like, that can't happen. They can't do that.

WATSON: Mehray believes her husband is imprisoned here in a fortified facility that has grown substantially over the last eight years. One of dozens of high-security camps that have recently been expanded in Xinjiang, according to analysis by the Australian think tank Aspi (ph).

(on camera): Chinese government statistics first compiled by Human Rights Watch also showed that the number of people sentenced to prison in Xinjiang spiked dramatically, jumping approximately six times between 2014 and 2018.

(voice-over): Some experts believe China is transitioning its alleged mass detention of Muslim minorities from internment camps to formal prisons, a policy that more and more people from Xinjiang claim is ripping their families apart.

Maromi Erara (ph), a Uyghur from Xinjiang now living in Sweden, has spent the last three years lobbying for the release of her cousin, Naila Yakava (ph), a Mandarin language teacher and mother of three first detained in 2018, accused of financing terrorism.

Then in February, Naila (ph) got this video call from her mother in Xinjiang with a devastating update on her cousin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They sentenced her to six years and six months.

WATSON (on camera): How is your family handling this conviction?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they are dead inside.

WATSON: The family shared this letter from Naila (ph), written in detention, in which she claims she was forced to sign a confession. "I don't have the strength to resist such power," she writes. The Chinese government has gone from initially denying the mass

detention policy to now defending the crackdown arguing it's battling against Islamic extremism.

This state TV documentary released an April claims there's a fifth column of government officials who secretly plotted to turn Xinjiang into an independent homeland for Uyghurs.

It accuses this man, Ablumi Abuklakar (ph) and his brother of paying to send Uyghur teenagers overseas, where some allegedly then joined the Islamic State.

(on camera): How did you react when you saw your father?

DILSAR ABLIMIT, DAUGHTER OF DETAINED UYGHUR: I could not even recognize him. I was refusing to believe that that was my father.

WATSON (voice-over): The accused man's daughter is a 21-year-old university student studying abroad in Turkey. She says her father went missing four years ago in Xinjiang until he suddenly appeared in this Chinese documentary.

ABLIMIT: My father and uncle are neither a terrorist or a separatist.

WATSON: The documentary didn't say if the brothers had been charged with a crime.

CNN has asked the Chinese government about their status, and that of the others in our report, and pushed for answers on why so many Uyghurs are being thrown in jail.

In Australia, Mehray Mezensof clings to a letter from her husband, which was smuggled out of detention three years ago. She's also clinging to hope after learning her husband will spend the next 25 years behind bars.

MEZENSOF: I have to fight for him. I have to -- I have to be strong for him. I have to do something. I can't just keep sitting and being silent about this.

WATSON (on camera): Do you think you will see your husband again?

MEZENSOF: I really hope so. I can't imagine not seeing him again.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEWTON: So we want to underscore here that CNN reached out to the Chinese government for comment on this story. It has not yet responded to our questions.

OK. Still ahead here for us, the real-life drama behind a best-selling book. Jury deliberations are underway in the trial of a French woman accused of murdering her abusive husband. Details on the trial, and her defense, are coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:40:39]

NEWTON: Now, in a matter of hours, jury deliberations begin in France in the trial of a woman who killed her abusive husband, and before that, that he was her stepfather.

Now, in her best-selling book, she admits to shooting him dead. She says it was in self-defense following decades of beatings and forced prostitution. The question, now, will the jury believe her?

CNN's Cyril Vanier reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the story of a broken human being, and a test of the French legal system.

Valerie Bacot arrives in court, surrounded by her children. This mother of four faces a life sentence behind bars after killing her husband, Daniel Polette. The facts are not disputed.

She admits shooting him in the back of their van and burying his body with the help of their teenage sons. But, her best-selling memoir, "Everyone Knew," frames it as self-defense.

"I only wanted to protect myself," she writes, "protect my life, and that of my children. Nothing else ever mattered to me."

Valerie Bacot was first abused by Daniel Polette as a child. Twenty- five years or elder, he was her stepfather at the time. He was sentenced to prison, but, she says, raped her repeatedly when he returned home.

By age 17, she was pregnant with her first child, and eventually, married him.

"This man was all powerful," says Bacot's lawyer. "He sowed terror, and had total control over his children and his wife."

Bacot described the marriage to investigators as an ordeal. Beatings, threats, forced prostitution. Total submission to a tyrant, who drank heavily, and was addicted to pornography. "Don't worry, one day you'll leave," she recounts her husband saying, "but it will be feet first, and the kids, top."

During the trial, Polette's siblings, and former partners, concurred that he was a dangerous man. "A monster," says him brother. "Inhumane, unhinged. Someone you'd never want in your family."

The legal question, explains this lawyer, is whether the law is applied differently when a woman who has been beaten over her life and forced into prostitution kills her spouse. For the moment, she says, there is no special treatment. Public opinion appears to skew heavily in Valerie Bacot's favor. A

petition against further jail time, receiving 6,000 signatures, and several lawmakers have expressed support.

Also in her favor, the psychiatric evaluation, concluding that she acted out of terror. Her judgment altered by extreme post-traumatic stress disorder.

"When you're beaten for years, since the age of 12," her lawyer argues, "you cannot think normally, like you, or I. At some point, you have to do something that's not like you, not like her. To save herself. It's survival."

How this argument resonates with the jury will likely determine the outcome of the trial.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, London.

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