tv Piers Morgan Live CNN April 13, 2013 2:00am-3:00am PDT
thanks very much for watching. the news continues next on cnn. both were kidnapped by their own mother. spirited away across the world to another culture, another type of justice. but that alone would be bad enough, but all of this happened nearly a dozen years ago. today, michael shanons two sons are 16 and 12 and nearly unrecognizable to him. try to imagine what that's like as a father. in fact, it gets more heartbreaking by the day. tonight, his story and his wife's. >> tonight, kidnapped egypt, a
father's nightmare. >> it is all michael shannon has left of his sons. a final picture adamant for jason, just ten months. >> i can't stop picturing them as a four and a one-year-old. or a five-year-old and a one-year-old. >> and i've had no photos and i'm trying to imagine what they would look like at 16 and 12 and hoping that they don't hate me for not saving them. >> this is a story you could tell a thousand times over. an international kidnapping to egypt, a country that takes in billions of dollars of aid from the united states, but refuses to recognize international law.
when it comes to returning the united states' stolen children. according to court records, michael shannon's sons were illegally taken here by their mother. despite winning every court case since, desz piet his american citizen sons must be returned to the u.s., it's lasted more than a decade. >> if we went over there -- >> he's taking on shannon's case, for free. because he says even the united states government isn't helping. >> it's horrible to have to admit to michael we've all failed him. the legal system has failed him. nothing has happened to get his children back. >> it is an international
nightmare that began with a most-american of love stories. in 1995, michael shannon was a computer specialist in chicago, when his best friend invited him to a company softball game. the company was the engineering giant beck-tell. and on that softball field, he met a beck-tell employee and fell in love. >> she was in your eyes, americanized. >> i didn't find out until three months after we were dating that her father was born in cairo. >> her egyptian father was an extremely wealthy and powerful businessman who made sure his daughters were born u.s. citizens. it wasn't long before michael shannon and irmine were married and michael found out just how wealthy the family was. >> for a while, was it a good marriage? fun? >> sure, of course. i got to travel to suric and
stay in the chalet and stay three weeks in cairo, had a $3 million mansion on the mediterranean. and her father wanted me to stay there. >> he was very successful. he sat on several egyptian government boards of the then-dictator. and he still runs his financial banking and consulting firm near the apartment building he owns. one thing he did not have was a grandson to take over his empire. >> he wanted grandsons? >> oh, yeah, he had four daughters and six granddaughters. no male children. >> but that changed soon after they were married. adam shannon was born on february 2nd, 1997.
the first male grandchild. pictures show a beaming mother, father and grandmother. it was even time for a family visit to cairo. michael shannon says his father-in-law was so overjoy today have a grandson, he offered him a job and a house with just one condition. they had to live in egypt. >> i said, well, the problem is, your daughter, my wife, hates this country. she hates egypt. women are second class citizens there. she can't smoke, she can't drink. >> more people go to spring training games. >> there was another reason not to move to egypt. michael shannon's son from another marriage, mike, was 11 years old when adam was born. now, 27, he recalls the little brother from whom he became inseparable.
>> i go to bed and tried to kick him out of my room the hardest i could. get him to go to his room. and knowing that i had to wake up for school the next morning and my alarm going off at 6:00 in the morning and there he is, cuddled up next to me. >> it was idealic only in pictures. michael shannon says his wife had a drinking problem, something she denies. maryland police records show she was charged with assaulting her husband and placed on probation. as part of that probation, she was ordered to undergo treatment at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center. >> at one time, i had to take him to the hospital. she came in there drunk and try today remove him from the hospital and they called social services and did an investigation. >> the couple separated. michael taking custody of adam. nirmine could visit, but michael insisted a third party be present. >> her anger had to be
controlled. >> the situation did get better. and michael shannon and irmine briefly reconciled resulting in the birth of another son. >> hey, patty cake boy. >> jason, born in january of 2001. kbu the relationship fell apart again. adam would live with the shannons, jason would live with nirmine. no one was happy. what michael shannon didn't realize was that nirmine and her mother were plotting to change everything. >> i remember when the time came where they had asked, well, would it be okay if her mother was the guardian for watching adam for a weekend. and i remember how ditch cult that decision was.
>> august, 2001. nirmine's mother flew from baltimore to visit her daughter. and there was something else. she was asking permission to take her two grandsons and her daughter for a rare weekend trip out of state to new york. to visit a relative. shannon was suspicion, but reluctantly agreed. >> i said to my father, i said, well, there's no way she can take him to egypt. i have full custody. i have full rights. i have their passports locked in the safe. how could she possibly get them out of the country? >> sunday night, the boys weren't back. phone calls went unanswered. >> and then it just becomes let's just go find out what's going on? where are they?
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august 22nd, 201, michael shannon has reluctantly agreed to allow his son, adam, to take a trip to new york, with his mother, nirmine. nirmin eerks moes has given word that she will watch over the child and return him four days later at 6:00 p.m., august 26th. it's the first time since the divorce adam has been allowed on a visit with no one from the shannon family present. he will join his infant brother, jason, on the trip to visit a cousin. their older, half brother, mike shannon, recalls just how nervous his father was. >> nobody wanted to say it, but the thought was always in the back of your mind, what are they getting at here? why the sudden change? at the end of the day, you kind of want to understand from the grandmother's stand point, she wants to have some time with her grandson. >> the shannon's family trust was misplaced.
thomas fleckenstein would say that the facts would later reveal that the grandmother was a co-conspirator of an international kidnapping weeks in the works. >> she came from her home country of egypt, she came here, she participated in the planning of the removal of the children from maryland. she participated in the story that was told to the father as to where the children were going to be in new york, when they would be back, the fact that she was visiting was part of the impetus for the children to visit and spend time with the grandmother. and she was actively involved in helping the children travel to egypt. >> it had to be. michael shannon held the passports for both of his boys in a safe at home. he had legal custody of adam and jason was not allowed to leave maryland without the father's consent. but there was a loophole. early in 2001, one parent could
simply call the state department and report a child's passport lost, apply for a new one and it was granted. that is exactly what nirmine had done. the egypt air tickets were purchased in new york by a relative. the family arranged for an international moving kpaenl to empty the apartment. and in the final days of august, she would arrive to supervise the escape. do you feel that that was the plan all along? >> that's what we believe, yes. >> michael shannon knew nothing until it was too late. he waited and paced as hours went by. everyone started pacing the
house. no wuj is picking up on the phone calls and then it just becomes get in the car and go out. find out what's going on. where are they? >> what was they day like when you pulled up? >> i went to the apartment to pick them up. >> he said there was a truck out here with international moving company. i finally got ahold of them and that sunday afternoon, i called the baltimore county police. >> they had gone straight to new york. straight to j.f.k. straight to egypt air. and before michael shannon realized they were gone, they were landing in cairo
untouchable. confirmation would finally come at the most unlikely time. >> oh, yeah. i received a call from adam. right after 9/11. and he said i'm not in america anymore. i'm not even in new york. he thought new york was a separate country. he was only four years old at the time. he said when are you and pop pop coming to get me. i said as soon as we can. >> shannon planned on doing just that. heading to egypt armed with the law on his side and bringing his boys home. then he called the state department for help. but officials there said there was nothing he could do. >> the state department said the family won't allow it. it's intrusive. i've asked for wellness pness checks and the embassy writes
letters to the family and the family simply refuses them. >> there may have been another reason for the state department's lack of interest. >> in the aftermath of 9/11, the united states was leaning heavily on egypt and its president for support in the war on terror. >> we've got a good friend. americans have a good friend. >> it would be a bad time to bring up a minor issue, like a kidnapping with a family with ties to egypt's president. suddenly, michael shannon felt very alone. michael shannon was told give up. force and bad tactics will only serve to put you farthest away from your objective, she writes. the children need to be with their mother. this is islamic law.
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clues hoping against hope. suddenly, khalifa's name popped up in a live chat room. >> and here this name came up for my buddy list for aol and i remember asking my dad what time is it in egypt right now. and he said something like it's 3:00 in the morning in egypt. i said what time is it in california? he said i don't know, i think it's 6:00 or 7:00 at night in california. i said they're on line right now, why would they be online at 3:00 a.m. in the morning? >> they weren't. nermeen's mother and nermeen's father were, in fact, in a family-owned condominium north of san diego. they had flown there not knowing afaf was the subject of an international arrest warrant. >> we thought it was too good to be true. we didn't really think too much of it. but, hey, what the heck, let's just go ahead and call out there. sure enough, someone picked up
the phone that they're home in california. >> i called the f.b.i. . i said they're in san diego at their house. i called the number. impossible. she's red flagged. she can't get through customed. she can't get through ins. i had the maryland state police call out there and say they were at pacific bell and electric company. they got the san diego county sheriffs and kicked the door in. >> afaf khalifa spent one night in jail and was extradited to maryland. >> you thought that was going to be a break? >> yeah. >> prosecutors in maryland wanted her to face criminal charges. but mostly, they said, they wanted adam and jason shannon returned to their father. >> did the authorities here believe that that arrest would have eventually led to those children being reunited with their dad? >> well, certainly, the charge and the arrest is to prosecute
her for her own criminal acts. certainly, to get the children back and reunited with their father resulted from that, that would certainly have been a goal for them, as well. >> it took nine more months for the case to be heard here in this colonial-era court house in annapolis, maryland. prosecutors even offered in writing to drop the charges in exchange or return of the children. if this can be accomplished, the prosecutor wrote, i believe it is in all party's best interest that it be done as quickly as possible. >> at any time do you know if there was some kind of negotiation with the family in egypt to say okay, we give. we're going to bring these kids back? >> not that i'm aware of, no. >> a judge heard the case and sentenced afaf khalifa to ten years in prison on multiple counts, a sentence later reduced to three years. a 60-year-old woman. she began serving her time here, at the maryland's women's prison
in jessup, maryland. 14 months passed. and then afaf khalifa, the only bargaining chip michael shannon had left to get back his children disappeared. >> she was suddenly gone. deported back to egypt. before the state of maryland, before the prosecuting attorneys even knew she was released from prison. >> were you notified? >> no, the office was not notified that she had been paroled nor that there would be any action taken by immigration officials. at the time. >> if you're wondering how that could have happened, you're not alone. the state department told cnn it doesn't interfere in deportation cases. that is up to the u.s. immigration service. and no one from immigration has returned multiple phone calls and e-mails asking for comment. michael shannon hired the lawyer
who arguably knows more about international child abduction than anyone in the country who believes the u.s. government not only has done nothing to help, it may have expedited afaf khalifa's deportation. >> these are american boys, american sit zeps. they're not entitled to be egyptian citizens and they're being held in a foreign country for 12 years and the government, unfortunately, has done nothing about it. >> michael shannon turned to an egyptian court for help, hiring an egyptian attorney to help him enforce his u.s. custody rights. the case was filed in 2002. it was postponed two years until december 30th of 2004. then, another two-year postponement until february, 2006. then, nothing. >> it has lingered in this court ever since. american orders to bring american citizens back to the
united states. ignored. >> the bottom line is when we took the american orders to egypt and asked for them to be in the lingo of this specialty domesticated, we were just laughed at. >> this is a lot of elements involved. a lot of planning involved. i keep going back to this family that you married into and knew. are you still stunned? >> stunned? of course. i never thought they would go this far. >> but just who is nermeen khalifa. and who is telling the truth about what really went on nearly 12 years ago? it is why cnn came to this upscale neighborhood in cairo who kidnapped her own children and ask her why? >> hello? >> hi, nermeen, this is drew griffin with cnn. >> it is a story being told very differently than the tale told in the united states. >> he basically, and according
to the courts, feels you've kidnapped these children and kidnapped them for 12 years. >> i'd like to give you my point of view. >> okay. >> when we come back, the woman wanted for kidnapping insists she is the real victim. can your longwear makeup last 'til five o'clock? it will if it's new outlast stay fabulous foundation. it's a primer, concealer and foundation in one for all day flawless skin. new outlast stay fabulous from easy, breezy, beautiful covergirl.
the khalifa family lives here in cairo's upscale neighborhood flt it's where claf's father runs his businesses. the family lives in this apartment building owned by the father. nermeen has kept her sons and her silence here for years. only once agreeing to an interview with an arab outfit. she's refused all requests from the west until now. though she refused to meet on camera and refused off camera, she did agree, at least, to talk, at least by phone. her story is a completely
different account of the marriage, the kidnapping and the u.s. court record on the case. and though it may sound far-fetched in the united states, in egypt and in the middle east, it is easily believed that the entire u.s. justice system conspired against her. >> nermeen tells us it was not she that was the abuser, it was him. not she that was the alcoholic, it was him. and not she that kept the family apart, it was him. in a not-so-unbiassed way that an antimuslim judicial system is the root of all of her problems. >> and you believe the system is against you because you're arab american?
>> i'm an arab muslim. definitely. yes. >> nermeen left the country on august 25th, 2001. in maryland, a court hearing was immediately scheduled. it would be held in two weeks, the date? september 11th, 2001. on the very morning terrorist planes were hitting world trade towers, a maryland state court ruled michael shannon should be granted sole custody of his two abducted children and the state issued a warrant for nermeen's arrest. to nermeen, her absence from court proves she's a victim of discrimination. >> and that's the root of all of this legal custody issues? >> the judge granted the custody
without hearing me or seeing me or knowing anything about me. >> and you don't feel that kourlt decision had anything to do with -- i mean, what i saw on records of abuse by you, alcoholism by you, et cetera? >> this is all his fight. this is all his talk. >> i don't know how it's on court record at all. i never had any rulings against me for anything he mentioned. >> i have the court records with me. i'm stunned that you haven't seen them. >> i have not seen any court records at all. >> there is no record at all that nermeen, herself, was abused. >> the reason i ask, i have
gotten huge files on this case through the years and i haven't seen any of that. >> and that's why you fled to egypt? >> why do you have to word it that way? >> i'm tired of this saga. i've been suffering at his hands since the day i met him. still now, he's trying to make my life miserable. what does he want? >> well, he wants his sons back, he says. well, he wants to see his sons so much, why hasn't he come here? >> michael shannon tells us he has tried to talk to his boys every year since their
disappearance. he has sent e-mails from his son. they are unanswered. le has asked for a picture of his two sons. the family refused to allow the state department to take a photo. >> this one sent january second of this year, a profanity-laced describe against being another old hag. her son's own grandmother, betty, almost died. she writes this. good rid sdans. another one to feed the hungry flames of hell.
>> i haven't tried to keep any photos. >> do the boys know anything about their father? >> of course they do. of course both of my boys know their father. he can come here any time and meet them. >> they can't come to the united states, though. >> no, not yet. >> not yet meaning when they're adults and no longer under the court custody ruling, you'll allow them to go to the united states? >> they are united states citizens, right. >> are they at some point egyptian citizens? >> no. i'm not going to answer anymore questions. i'm sorry, thank you very much. >> it is sunday morning, the beginning of the school week in cairo.
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[ male announcer ] now get 50% off brake pads and shoes at meineke. almost immediately, michael shannon learned how powerless his own country would be in egypt. he turned to the u.s. state department for help and found out he is not alone. >> we are aware of 22 cases. but, remember, this is self-reporting and there might be many more cases. >> ambassador susan jacobs is the u.s. state department's special advisor on children's issues. egypt, she says, is a difficult country to deal with because it's not signed on to the hague convention regarding children's issues, which allows, in some cases, for the return of abducted kids. >> is there no way we can't say
to egypt you want $3 billion a year for your 34i8 tear? give us back these kids that are american citizens. >> i would argue we have a very complex relationship with egypt that goes beyond military aid. we are trying to work with egypt's government as they transition to democracy to encourage all kinds of new practices. and one of them would be adherence to the hague convention or to recognize u.s. court orders and we'll continue to urge them to do that. but i don't think we're going to just say we're through with you if you don't do this one thing. we have many things that we want you to do. this is one of them. >> michael shannon has heard that same explanation for more than a decade. >> and all that time, he has been fighting a court case back in maryland. michael's sons have been growing up here. 12 long years.
12 years, not even seeing a single photograph. >> but that is about to change. it's 7:05 a.m. sunday morning. the beginning of the school week in cairo. and two boys, appearing to be about 16 and 12, are walking out of the apartment building where nermeen khalifa lives with michael shannon's two sons. khalifa has refused to give a picture of her boys. she has refused to allow the u.s. state department to take a photo of adam and jason and for over a dozen years, has denied her father a single image. these undercover images will be the first michael shannon has seen of his children since august 22nd, 2001. >> listen, i want you to do something. i want you to just open up that computer in front of you and i want you to hit play.
>> i see it. and i'm looking at a young man with a black and yellow tie. >> does he look familiar? >> no. are you serious? are you talking about the man with the tie? >> yeah, and then you should see another shot of a smaller boy. we believe these are your sons. >> well, it's been 11 years, but -- oh, my god, that could be him. >> we believe that first boy, who looks like a man now, is adam. and the second son, who is about 12 years old -- >> is jason? >> is your son, jason. >> michael shannon is stunned and in disbelief. >> who's the one with him holding jason.
>> he asks for old photographs to compare. in the confusion, he gets the names wrong. it is adam he's trying to recognize. >> i'm looking at one from 2001 right before they were kidnaps. oh, my god, the ears could be identical. would you know your son after 12 years? >> i pray i'd never have to be in your situation. so i don't know. >> it could be him. yes, it could be him. >> he looks like a man. >> yeah. >> i spent the last 11 years with the image of a five-year-old in my mind. >> and what about jason? >> there's no way to tell. the picture i have of jason, he's ten months old.
>> do you see any of your family in him? >> certainly i do. he looks like my daughter. >> how does it feel to be looking at these photographs of these people and after you said, 11, 12 years, you can't even determine if these are, indeed, your son. >> it's why i've been trying to get a photo for ten years from the government the u.s. embassy, they're all denying me. just send me a photo. if these are my sons, this is the first time i've seen them in 11 years. >> as we hang up, michael shannon is still not 100% sure. later, nermeen khalifa seventh an e-mail to cnn claiming the boy ins the images are not her sons. but she refused to give us any pictures.
she threatened to sue if these pictures we took were broadcast. when asked why she would consider a lawsuit if the photos were not of her sons, she didn't answer. threw it all, michael shannon cannot pull himself away. >> that could be adam. >> what's going through your head right now seeing these pictures? what? why, why, why. why did it take 11 years. for one photograph. this is only two miles from the u.s. embassy. >> it is a small victory.
for years, michael shannon kept a calendar counting each day his boys have missed birthdays and skipped holidays. from his oldest son, mike, from a first marriage, that calendar was a signature part of growing up. >> for a long time, i remember every single day was circled with a fum ber on it. i think one was how many days they've been gone. and i think one would be how many days since we've last had contact with them. pretty soon, numbers were on top of numbers. i don't think any of us, at that point, maybe even a year later, i probably would have told you within the next year they would have come back. and even five years later, i would have told you any day now they'll come back. i never thought it would going to last this long in my wildest dreams. >> mike shannon is still searching for his younger half brothers online. holding onto hope that they
dozen years be a family once again. >> it's very difficult to pick up where you left off because the last thing i saw was a 5-year-old boy. so we'd have to start fresh. we'd have to start over as a family again. i think there's a lot of good moments to still be had, though. it would just feel really good to close that chapter and start something new. don't act like you don't want to look at me. >> michael shannon has since remarried, a third time. and last year, he lost his father at the age of 73. he died without seeing his grandsons again. >> you want the boys to come home right now? >> they will. they have to. >> what will that be like? >> i dreamt for years of always meeting them at an airport and seeing them. when a parent loses a child, when they die, you die with
them, at that age. his room was the same as the day he left. but i can't stop picturing them as a five-year-old and a one-year-old. >> maryland prosecutor thomas fleckenstein says legally speaking, michael shannon has done all he could. the only criminal prosecution was done by our office. he's won every step of the way. he has availed himself of every legal option that's available to him in his 12-year fight to get his children back. and, yet, notwithstanding having
won every step of the way, he's still with all of that, not in a position to compel their return from egypt. >> in washington, ambassador susan jacobs had no real answers, either. >> in this specific case, michael shannon has not seen a photograph of his children in 12 years. >> and this is true in other of the 22 cases. i'm not going to speak about a specific case, but all of these cases are very sad, horrible cases where one of the parents has been deprived of their children for long periodsover time. half of the cases are more than ten years old and the others date from 2012. but those are only the case that is we know about. >> michael said the last time he spoke with his oldest son, adam, was years ago and it was a bitter phone call. >> about six years ago, on his birth day, she let me speak to adam. at the time, he was ten and jason was six. and he was, you know, i hope bulldozers knock your house down. they burn down your house and he's been watching too much of
the israeli palestinian thing. and she told me that they told jason, the younger boy, that their father will be killed in an accidents when he was a baby. but that adam had told them different. that his father was still alive and he was living in america. after we returned from cairo, we got a phone call, too. the young man on the other end said he was michael shannon's son, adam. most of that phone call was off the record. but he did allow us to record this about his mother. >> she's a great, caring mother. very considerate. and she, she does whatever i ask. if i asked her this morning to take me to the united states and give me a ticket, she would love, proudly to do it. >> michael shannon believes his
ex-wife has turned his sons against him. but, against all the odds, he's optimistic to this day. >> it's like they say in egypt, it's god's will. they have to come back to the united states. they're u.s. citizens. >> michael shannon can only hope now for the future, the days his sons each turn 18 and can leave egypt on their own. that is the day he believes they will finally know the truth about their father. that he never stopped fighting for them. that he never stopped loving them. that he never stopped trying to be their dad. >> well, when a father can't absolutely be certain that the images he's being shown are, in fact, pictures of his sons, that tells you in a heartbeat how