Cuba frees 53 pris­on­ers as agreed in US deal

Lesotho Times - - International -

PARIS — The Air­bus A350 and A380 pas­sen­ger jets will soon come equipped with ejectable black boxes that can float, mak­ing them eas­ier to find in an air crash at sea, avi­a­tion sources said on Mon­day.

“At the end of last year Air­bus got the green light from EASA (Euro­pean Air Se­cu­rity Agency) to work on the nec­es­sary mod­i­fi­ca­tions to its planes in or­der to in­stall th­ese new black boxes in the rear of the planes,” one of the sources told AFP.

An EASA spokesper­son con­firmed that the agency was work­ing on chang­ing the nec­es­sary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to al­low Air­bus to equip its planes with the new flight data and cock­pit voice recorders.

“The change is gen­er­ally quick,” the spokesper­son added.

The tech­nol­ogy, which has al­ready been ap­proved for mil­i­tary air­craft, has not been used in civil avi­a­tion be­cause up un­til a few years ago air ac­ci­dents have mainly hap­pened dur­ing take-off or land­ing. Black boxes are gen­er­ally found eas­ily on land.

But in re­cent years pas­sen­ger jets have crashed into the ocean rais­ing the need for new tech­nol­ogy to help find the black boxes. Th­ese recorders are crit­i­cal in air crash in­ves­ti­ga­tions as they pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on how the planes were op­er­at­ing and the con­ver­sa­tions of the pi­lots.

In 2009 an Air France jet trav­el­ling from Rio to Paris went down in the At­lantic and the search for the black boxes at the bot­tom of the ocean took nearly two years.

In March last year, a Malaysia Air­lines dis­ap­peared over the In­dian Ocean and its black boxes have still not be found.

Then last month an Airasia plane crashed into the Java Sea and so far divers have found the flight data recorder but not yet the cock­pit recorder.

“The idea is to mod­ify the black boxes so that each one records the flight de­tails and [cock­pit] con­ver­sa­tions. One would be ejectable, the other not,” a source close to Air­bus ex­plained to AFP.

An ejectable black box would be equipped with an airbag sys­tem so it could float on the sur­face of the wa­ter in the event of a crash at sea.

It would also help to in­di­cate the ex­act point of im­pact at the time of the crash and to find the wreck­age.

The Toulouse-based air­craft maker plans to in­stall the ejectable black boxes first on its A350 and A380 jets since they are used in transat­lantic flights. — AFP HA­VANA — Cuba has com­pleted the re­lease of all 53 pris­on­ers it had promised to free, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said on Mon­day, a ma­jor step to­ward dé­tente with Wash­ing­ton.

The re­lease of the re­main­ing de­tainees over­comes a big hur­dle for his­toric talks next week aimed at nor­mal­is­ing ties af­ter decades of hos­til­ity.

The list of 53 is part of last month’s break­through Us-cuba agree­ment and in­cludes many known to in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights groups as “pris­on­ers of con­science.”

The United States wel­comed Cuba’s ac­tion as a mile­stone, but se­nior US of­fi­cials said Wash­ing­ton would keep press­ing Ha­vana to free more peo­ple they con­sider po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

Lift­ing the se­crecy around the freed dis­si­dents, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­vided the full list to con­gres­sional lead­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to a copy ob­tained by Reuters, they in­clude mem­bers of prom­i­nent Cuba protest groups in­clud­ing the Ladies in White.

There had been ques­tions whether Ha­vana would re­lease all those it had pledged to free as part of the deal that Pres­i­dents Barack Obama and Raul Cas­tro an­nounced on 17 De­cem­ber to re­store diplo­matic ties, which Wash­ing­ton sev­ered more than 50 years ago.

The mys­tery that sur­rounded the 53 had played to Mr Obama’s crit­ics who say he has not pres­sured Ha­vana enough on hu­man rights in re­turn for nor­mal­is­ing ties.

The United States ex­changed three con­victed Cuban spies for an agent who had spied for the Amer­i­cans. Wash­ing­ton also re­ceived Alan Gross, a US aid worker jailed in Cuba.

Cuba in­formed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion over the week­end that the last of those on the list had been re­leased.

But one of the of­fi­cials said: “We’re go­ing to be want­ing to raise the cases of dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­u­als who may be de­tained in Cuba for ex­er­cis­ing their uni­ver­sal rights.”

Cuba de­nies that it holds po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

Jose Daniel Fer­rer, leader of the peace­ful op­po­si­tion group Pa­tri­otic Union of Cuba, thanked the United States for help­ing to se­cure free­dom for some of its mem­bers but said “we re­gret there are some po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers — about 10 — who re­main in pri­son.”

Among those on the re­lease list were peo­ple des­ig­nated by Amnesty In­ter­na­tional as “pris­on­ers of con­science” such as broth­ers Bianco Var­gas Martín and Diango Var­gas Martín, mem­bers of the Pa­tri­otic Union ar­rested in 2012 and sen­tenced on public dis­or­der charges to four years in pri­son.

Also listed were Haydee Gal­lardo, a mem­ber of Ladies in White, and her hus­band, An­gel Figueredo, who were ar­rested last year.

The US of­fi­cials said as many as eight peo­ple on the list had been re­leased even be­fore the De­cem­ber an­nounce­ment, some be­cause they were al­ready sched­uled to get out. But a Cuban dis­si­dent leader said 17 of the 53 had been freed by that time.

Repub­li­can US Se­na­tor Marco Ru­bio, a lead­ing critic of Mr Obama’s pol­icy, told CBS the re­lease was great news for the pris­on­ers but that Cuba was get­ting much of what it wanted from the ad­min­is­tra­tion in re­turn for “th­ese min­i­mal changes.”

Speak­ing in de­tail on the prisoner re­lease for the first time since last month’s dra­matic shift in Cuba pol­icy, the US of­fi­cials said the idea grew out of se­cret talks on how to re­lease Mr Gross and how to struc­ture the spy swap.

As both sides be­gan see­ing prospects for a broader rap­proche­ment, US ne­go­tia­tors sought proof of Cuba’s readi­ness to im­prove its hu­man rights record and last spring pre­sented a list of pris­on­ers they wanted re­leased, the of­fi­cials said.

— Reuters.

In­done­sian mil­i­tary per­son­nel re­move the Flight Data Recorder of the ill-fated Airasia flight QZ8501 into a proper case in Pangkalan Bun, In­done­sia on Mon­day.

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