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Police are investigating whether the political beliefs of the pilot of Flight MH370 could be a factor in the Malaysia Airline jet’s disappearance, a British newspaper reports.
The Mail on Sunday says Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah was an “obsessive” supporter of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and the pilot may have attended his latest trial just hours before taking charge of the missing Boeing 777.
A Court of Appeals panel on March 7 ruled in favour of the government’s bid to overturn Anwar’s 2012 acquittal on charges he sodomised a male former aide.
The 66-year-old was sentenced to five-years-jail but was freed pending appeal. He has alleged a long-running campaign by the ruling regime to destroy his political career with false charges.
Police sources fear the court decision left Captain Zaharie profoundly upset, the Mail on Sunday reports.
“Colleagues made it clear to us that he was someone who held strong political beliefs and was strident in his support for Anwar Ibrahim,” an investigation source said according to the UK tabloid.
“We were told by one colleague he was obsessed with politics.”
Colleagues said Zaharie, 53, planned to attend the court case on March 7 but investigators are yet to confirm if he was actually there.
“We are looking into the theory that Zaharie’s political beliefs may be a factor,” a source told the Mail on Sunday.
“There are huge sensitivities surrounding this but we cannot afford not to pursue any angle brought to our attention.”
The newspaper says investigators spent much of last week examining two laptops removed from the pilot’s home. One is believed to contain data from a flight simulator he assembled himself.
The first officer on Flight MH370, Fariq Abdul Hamid, also came under media scrutiny last week.
The Nine Network broadcast an interview with a young South African woman who said the 27-year-old and another pilot invited them into the cockpit of a flight from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur in 2011.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Sunday Telegraph reports that an al-Qaeda supergrass told a New York court last week that four to five Malaysian men had been planning to take control of a plane using a bomb hidden in a shoe to blow open the cockpit door.
Convicted British terrorist Saajid Badat reportedly said the Malaysian jihadists, including a pilot, were “ready to perform an act”.
Confirmation Flight MH370 was deliberately diverted has sharpened scrutiny of the cockpit crew and passengers.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Saturday said satellite and radar data clearly indicated the plane’s automated communications were disabled and it turned away from its intended path and flew on for hours.