The eldest sister of MH370’s captain has spoken of her anger at accusations he deliberately brought down the flight, describing his treatment as “guilty until proven innocent."
Allegations that Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a jihadist, or suicidal, do not square with his family's memories of a kind, and happy man, Sakinab Shah said as the second anniversary of the doomed flight approaches.
The 53-year-old Malaysia Airlines pilot was the commander of the Boeing 777, which disappeared on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 238 other people on board.
Sakinab, 72, said Tuesday’s anniversary would bring a “double dose” of grief.
“We grieve over his loss and then we have to put up with all the accusations coming from all the theories,” she told The Associated Press.
Her comments come after NBC News revealed Wednesday that a piece of possible debris is being examined by investigators after being found by a U.S. adventurer off the coast of Mozambique. Even if confirmed, it would be only the second piece of wreckage from the aircraft. A flaperon washed ashore on France's Reunion Island last July.
The "rogue pilot" theory has been focus of investigations after the Malaysian government said the plane was deliberately steered off course, but authorities have found no evidence linking Zaharie or his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, to any wrongdoing.
Zaharie was a member of the opposition party headed by jailed political leader, Anwar Ibrahim.
Sakinab said he was an ordinary member and accusations that he downed the plane to protest Anwar's imprisonment just a day before the flight was "ridiculous."
A report by a Malaysian investigation team affirmed the family's belief that Zaharie had no known history of mental health problems and no significant changes in his lifestyle or family stresses.
Zaharie has several bank accounts, two national trust funds, two houses and three vehicles but no record of him having a life insurance policy, it said.
"There is nothing tangible and nothing by way of evidence,” Sakinab said. “This is equivalent to … he's guilty until proven innocent."
She said the captain was a “very gentle and very caring person,” adding: “We are proud to call him our brother. We know he's a hero, he's our hero, contrary to what some people say. We hope he be in peace, wherever he might be.”
The Australian-led search of the 46,000-square-mile area where the plane is believed to have crashed is expected to be completed in the middle of the year.