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Passengers' relatives demand again: Release data

By Ashley Fantz

(CNN) -- As word came Thursday that the Malaysian government had filed a preliminary report about missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Sarah Bajc implored that the nation's officials share it with passengers' loved ones.

Bajc, the partner of American passenger Philip Wood, said the report is just one of many pieces of information families have been demanding that authorities release for weeks.

Officials have not explained why relatives haven't received the report as they've requested, Bajc said on CNN's "New Day."

"But I find it fascinating that they seem to be choosing to treat us as if we are the enemy, as opposed to an interested party in helping to solve this mystery," she said.

The plane vanished March 8 after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. By late March, Malaysian officials said the aircraft had gone down in the southern Indian Ocean, but an international team of rescuers has yet to find anything linked to the plane.

The report was sent to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the U.N. body for global aviation.

Malaysian officials said they have not yet decided if or when they will make the report public, and officials have consistently said they have nothing to hide.

"We need a fresh start here for the most of this case progressing forward," Bajc said. She said briefings that Malaysian officials have conducted with relatives have been unproductive.

"We've been sitting on opposite sides of the table. They have a briefing, they tell us what they know and we ask them questions. Well, that's just kind of broken," she said. "I think we need to start from scratch and sit down and have a positive dialogue."

Some family members are emerging as leaders in trying to engage the Malaysian government and ask for information, according to Bajc.

Some would be willing to sign confidentiality agreements if they were able to look at the report, she said, and they might even agree not to release the report to other family members until they, with help from experts, determined that indeed it might compromise an investigation.

Others have questioned why the report has not been released.

"It just adds fuel to the fire -- which is like a furnace now -- of disbelief, particularly in China, as to what is going on," said Geoffrey Thomas, managing director of AirlineRatings.com.

"If they say there's nothing to hide, then release this preliminary report, as virtually every other jurisdiction does with an accident," Thomas told CNN's Don Lemon.

The drama comes a day after reports about an "object of interest" washed ashore western Australia. But that object turned out to be unrelated to the flight.

On Wednesday, Steve Wang, whose mother was on the plane, demanded that Malaysian authorities release data for which family members have asked.

He and other relatives have said they do not accept the announcement by Malaysian authorities that the plane went down in the southern Indian Ocean. Wang said the relatives are doubtful that "they are searching the right place."

He and others want independent experts to crunch some of the data.

A committee representing some of the Chinese families have posted 26 questions on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

The Weibo request asks for the flight's logbook and recording of air traffic control on the night the plane disappeared.

Malaysian authorities have shared with families the full transcript of communications between the plane and air traffic control before releasing it to the public. In questions on Weibo, families also demanded highly critical yet sensitive information, such as the flight's maintenance check results and voice recording.

Malaysian authorities have not said specifically what they think is confidential.

"We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world," Prime Minister Najib Razak said on March 15. "But we have a responsibility to the investigation and the families to only release information that has been corroborated."

On Wednesday, Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's acting transport minister, said that authorities will not provide information unless it is "verified and corroborated" by investigators.

"As I've said from the beginning, we have nothing to hide," he said.

Also on the list posted to Weibo, family members asked for the personal contact information for those involved in the search.

John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, has told CNN that the request for phone numbers probably would be denied.

The log usually is on the plane, he said. But even if it were not, investigators probably wouldn't reveal specific information from it.

Other information the families have asked for does not qualify as "state secrets," he said, and they should have access to it.

Making their experience more trying, Wang and Bajc say, is that some relatives feel Malaysian authorities have treated them callously.

Most of the plane's passengers were Chinese, and many of their loved ones are distrustful of Malaysian authorities' account of where the plane went down.

"We just want to tell them, 'Stop lying!' " Wang said.

"They are telling to the whole world that they have good communication with the relatives," he said, explaining that answers relatives have tried to pose were met with opposition from officials.

"... They just said, 'Oh, stop asking the questions and face the fact,' " he continued. "What is the fact? What kind of fact (do) they want us to face? Do they have the fact(s)? So they are lying to the whole world again."

Bajc said Thursday on CNN that relatives are also prepared to put question to U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co. soon.

Wang and Bajc said they're not interested in filing lawsuits for the money. But if a lawsuit applies more pressure on authorities to release information they are asking for, they're open to doing so.

"I am not sure whether (a) lawsuit," Wang said, "could bring us the truth."
   
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