KAJANG, Malaysia - PKR leaders are fuming over a report in Britain's The Mail On Sunday that Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah, who piloted the Malaysia Airlines aircraft which went missing, is a "political fanatic" and "obsessive" supporter of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Anwar rubbished the claims and blamed Umno for creating the perception.
Allegations that Zaharie had diverted the plane from its original Kuala Lumpur-Beijing path as he was upset with his (Anwar's) court verdict on sodomy was "absurd," the PKR leader said during a ceramah at Sungai Chua last night.
The British newspaper reported that Zaharie, 53, was an "obsessive" supporter of Anwar and that hours before the doomed flight left Kuala Lumpur, it was understood that the pilot had attended Anwar's trial at the Court of Appeal.
However, PKR leaders have denied Zaharie's presence in court.
PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil said: "I was in court during the two days but I can't remember seeing him."
"I did not know who he was until news about the plane broke out last Saturday."
PKR vice-president Tian Chua said it was irresponsible to make such insinuations without verification.
Another vice-president N. Surendran said "there is not a drop of evidence to support such speculation. Let us be fair to the missing captain. He cannot answer for himself."
PAS Youth chief Suhaizan Kaiat said they would leave it to the authorities to carry out their investigations on the allegations.
Penang PKR vice-chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said Zaharie was an ordinary member with no party posts.
"From what I know, he is a staunch supporter of PKR and an activist of the party in Subang (Selangor)," said Abdul Malik, adding that the pilot hailed from Penang.
State PKR Youth chief Dr Afif Bahardin said he had not seen Zaharie in any party event in the state.
Peter Chong, who is the political secretary to Subang MP R. Sivarasa, said the pilot was an inactive member.
"He joined the party in January last year and that's when I met him. He helped us out during the polls last year but I cannot recall if he volunteered as one of the observers," he said.
Chong said he last met Zaharie a week before MH370 went missing. They had made plans to meet up when he returned from Beijing, he added.
"Besides being a caring person, he is a professional and would never take the lives of others for granted," he said.
The British tabloid claimed that police sources had confirmed Zaharie was a vocal political activist and feared that the court decision left him "profoundly upset."