malaysia

MH370 crew, passengers ‘innocent until proven’ guilty, says minister

Peter Chong holds up his smartphone to show a photo of himself with missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah at a hotel in Sepang March 18, 2014. — Reuters picPeter Chong holds up his smartphone to show a photo of himself with missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah at a hotel in Sepang March 18, 2014. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed today that some data had been deleted from the flight simulator recovered from the home of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 pilot as police continue investigations into the 239 people onboard.

The acting transport minister said the two pilots, 10 cabin crew and 227 passengers aboard the missing jumbo jet remain innocent of any wrongdoing until evidence showed otherwise.

He further pleaded for an end to speculation that any one of those on the plane might be responsible for its disappearance on March 8.

“I would like to take this opportunity to state that the passengers, the pilots and the crew remain innocent until proven otherwise,” he said in a news conference that was broadcast live from a hotel in Sepang.

Malaysian authorities returned to checking the backgrounds of the MH370 flight crew and passengers following confirmation last Saturday that a “deliberate” action was believed to have caused the plane to divert from its Beijing route.

The police had searched the houses of MH370 captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and his co-pilot Fariq Ab Hamid last Saturday, taking away Zaharie’s home-built flight simulator for inspection.

Hishammuddin today said investigators have discovered that some data were deleted from Zaharie’s simulator and that they were trying to recover them.

Malaysia’s national police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said an expert team including from Bukit Aman’s cybersecurity unit, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), and foreign agencies were trying to determine what was deleted more than a month ago.

“What we have found out from the simulator is the data log of the games has been cleared on February 3 so the experts are looking at what are the logs that have been cleared,” Khalid said at the same news conference.

Hishammuddin also noted that no significant information on any of the 227 passengers — which includes 38 Malaysians and 153 Chinese — had been found yet.

Today, the minister said only Ukraine and Russia have yet to provide background checks of their nationals on board the plane.

Last Sunday, Khalid said investigators were continuing to pursue four possibilities — hijack, sabotage, psychological and personal problems — in the case now classified under Section 130C of the Penal Code, which covers hijacking, sabotage, and terrorism offences, among others.

He also said that action under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) — which had replaced the Internal Security Act (ISA) and is primarily aimed at terrorists — could be taken in the investigation.

Today, the inspector-general of police declined to say whether any factor had been ruled out, saying that the police investigation was still focused on all four of the possibilities listed.

“I do not wish to elaborate on what has been ruled out or has not been ruled out,” Khalid said.