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Pilot’s political views raise fresh questions in search for missing Malaysian airliner

March 17, 2014 at 6:28 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The latest now on the investigation into Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. There were more questions raised today about the pilot himself after reports confirmed he attended the trial of a leading jailed political opposition figure just hours before the flight.

New video also showed the pilot and co-pilot passing through security detectors before they took off.

Lucy Watson of Independent Television News begins our coverage.

LUCY WATSON: Little did they know that such routine movements would be so scrutinized. This is Zaharie Shah, the pilot, and Fariq Abdul Hamid, the co-pilot of MH370.

Mohd Othman has known Captain Zaharie for 40 years, but now his friend’s anti-government views are being cited as a reason why he may have taken control of the flight.

MOHD NASIR OTHMAN, Friend of Pilot: He’s just a normal, typical Malaysian who has his own political beliefs. But to say he’s obsessed, I don’t think so. He’s a professional. He wouldn’t endanger the passengers.

LUCY WATSON: But 10 days on, speculation is great, with the focus on the crew. The airline doesn’t want us to talk to their families. And the families aren’t being given a say.

We have just been escorted out of this hotel by Malaysia Airlines, because this is where the families of the 12 crew members are being held. And they have been here for just over a week and they’re not allowed to talk to the media. Malaysia says the plane was deliberately diverted.

A vast area is now being searched by teams from 26 countries with particular focus on two possible flight paths. The last voice message from the aircraft was from the co-pilot, who said, “All right, good night,” at 1:19 a.m. local time, 12 minutes after tracking systems sent their last transmission before they were disabled.

Since then, these men continue to confront criticism.

Is it not time for the Malaysian government to admit that they have made some mistakes and at least apologize to the families?

DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, Transport Minister, Malaysia: That’s purely erroneous, because I have also got a lot of feedback that in the circumstances that they are facing, we have been very responsible in our actions.

LUCY WATSON: But actions yet to show results and many questions, with few real answers.