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Germanwings probe questioned

The Germanwings crash investigation shouldn’t set a precedent for future inquiries because it sought to assign blame before the probe was complete, a trade association representing the global airline industry says.

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Airlines and aviation safety regulators have long-established procedures for investigating crashes that put correcting safety risks ahead of assigning blame, International Air Transport Association CEO Tony Tyler told reporters on Wednesday.

Investigating with the intent to punish risks a loss of transparency and openness, he said.

French prosecutors revealed within days of the crash that the cockpit voice recording indicated one pilot deliberately flew the plane into a mountainside, killing all 150 people on board.

The subsequent investigation has focused largely on the pilot’s history of depression and procedures at Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa, for screening pilots for mental health issues.

“The circumstances of the investigation of the Germanwings accident have been highly unusual, and something that began as an accident investigation morphed into a highly public criminal investigation in which it seemed that every day new revelations were coming out,” Tyler said.

“This is a truly an extraordinary case in many ways, but it shouldn’t set a precedent for the future.”

The Paris prosecutor’s office said last week it was looking into claims that information was wrongly leaked to the media.

The move came after a lawsuit was filed by France’s leading pilots union, SNPL, over leaks about the crash investigation.

The union is claiming a violation of French law about keeping information about investigations secret while they are ongoing.

“I’m not going say that they anyone’s done anything wrong, but the important principle to bear in mind is that accident investigations should be conducted on a non-punitive basis,” Tyler said.

“When you have the possibility of punitive measures resulting from an accident investigation you then start to introduce unhelpful dynamics into the whole process where you risk losing the transparency, the openness” that’s needed “to identify what caused the event”.

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Maids say Bali boss gave kill order

The maids of an Indonesian woman on trial for plotting the murder of her Australian husband in Bali have testified she ordered him to be killed, not “taken care of” as their former boss claims.

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Julaikah Noor Aini, known as Noor Ellis, faces charges of pre-meditated murder over the death of her businessman husband Robert Ellis, whose body was found bound and wrapped in plastic in a rice field last October.

Ellis’ maids, who face the same charges, gave evidence at her trial in Denpasar on Wednesday.

Both said the five men accused of killing Mr Ellis were given orders to kill – despite Ellis’ claims she told them only to “take care of” her husband and end their domestic strife.

The trial has previously heard Ellis met the men in a hut on October 19 to plan the ambush of Mr Ellis at their Sanur villa, where they allegedly slashed his throat in the kitchen.

One of the maids, Marlina Bela Saghu, alias Feli, was on Wednesday asked about evidence she gave police, about a conversation with her boss the week before the crime.

That night, Judge Beslin Sihombing said, Ellis “spilled her heart out” to Feli and asked, “do you have a friend who could kill Mr Bob?”

Feli, 24, didn’t answer the judge, but later when he pressed her on what Ellis asked of the men, she said: “to kill”.

The Ellis’ second maid, Yuliana Bili, alias Yane, also attended the hut meeting.

She said Ellis told her to describe to the five men Mr Ellis’ physical appearance.

Asked by Judge Sihombing what the men were told to do, she said: “to kill Mr Bob”.

Neither woman was in the kitchen at the time of the attack but both told the court they cleaned the blood afterwards – Feli because she was ordered to, and Yane because she was scared.

Ellis, the Australian’s wife of 25 years, could face the death penalty for pre-meditated murder.

The trial continues next Wednesday.

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Harrington revels in his Masters return

The Irishman has been warmly welcomed by his peers and, following a morale-boosting victory at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic last month, is excited about his prospects at this week’s opening major of the year.

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“It’s like I’m playing my first Masters,” triple major winner Harrington told reporters during his build-up to Thursday’s opening round. “It feels like I didn’t miss one year, it feels like I missed a number of years.

“I’m in decent form so I’m a little bit more excited about going back to the Masters. It’s not like I’m going to have that many more Masters going forward, so I’m running out of time. I’m excited to be back.”

Harrington failed to qualify for last year’s Masters after his ranking tumbled to 174th and it continued to slide before he ended his 2014 campaign 265th.

Victory at the Honda Classic, where he beat American rookie Daniel Berger in a playoff, rocketed Harrington to 82nd in the rankings as he ended a title drought of seven years on the two main tours.

Now that he is back at Augusta National with the rest of the game’s leading players, the 43-year-old Dubliner aims to make the most of his Masters experience accumulated over 14 previous appearances.

“Experience is a very big factor here,” said the Irishman, who won his three majors during a remarkable 14-month span — clinching the 2007 British Open, the 2008 British Open and the 2008 PGA Championship.

“It is tough for anyone who hasn’t played here before. When you are not quite in an ideal position, where do you hit it?”

“There’s not going to be too many surprises.”

Harrington has recorded four top-10s in his 14 consecutive starts at Augusta National, most recently a tie for eighth in 2012.

“I played very well in 2012,” he said. “I hit the golf ball well and I putted a lot worse. Hopefully I’ll putt better this week than I did in 2012.

“Game-wise it was very good in 2012 and I’m hoping it could be every bit as good as that this week, and maybe a little bit stronger mentally.”

(Editing by Larry Fine)

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Treble-chasing Barca riding high before crucial run

Wednesday’s 4-0 La Liga victory over Almeria, which maintained their four-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top, was a more than satisfactory warm-up for Saturday’s game at fifth-placed Sevilla.

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The clash at the Sanchez Pizjuan is followed by the two-legged Champions League quarter-final against Paris St Germain, with a La Liga match at home to fourth-placed Valencia in between.

Barca became the first Spanish side to win a treble of domestic league and Cup and Champions League under Luis Enrique’s former team mate Pep Guardiola in 2008-09 and are well placed to repeat the feat after winning 20 of 22 matches this year.

They will seek a record-extending 27th King’s Cup triumph when they play Athletic Bilbao in the final at their own Nou Camp stadium in late May.

Messi has been on scintillating form in 2015, while Suarez, who scored the winner in last month’s 2-1 La Liga ‘Clasico’ win at home to Real, netted two more on Wednesday.

Forward Neymar has been off colour recently and was rested for the Almeria game along with playmaker Andres Iniesta and centre back Gerard Pique but will surely get back to form soon.

Rather than showing signs of stress, Luis Enrique says he is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s an attractive phase of the season, I am not sure if it will be the most difficult,” the former Barca and Spain midfielder told a news conference.

“I hope that we can play even more important matches in the Champions League but it will be very attractive for the Sevilla and Valencia games.

“In the Champions League we are putting everything on one card against PSG.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)