Malaysia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim – who earlier this month was sentenced to five years in jail on sodomy charges – has criticised attempts to link him to Malaysia Airlines pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

The Opposition leader had seen the captain of the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 at meetings of his political party, he told the South China Morning Post yesterday.

But he did not know him personally and criticised attempts to link the captain’s political affiliations to the plane’s disappearance 11 days ago.

“I don’t recollect the name, but when the photographs were shown I remembered I had seen him at party meetings,” Mr Anwar said of Mr Zaharie at the headquarters of his People’s Justice Party outside Kuala Lumpur. “He doesn’t hold positions in the party, but is an active member in the sense that he has been seen with the party’s parliamentary leaders, taking photographs with them,” the politician added.

Mr Anwar, a bitter rival of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, was sentenced to five years in jail on sodomy charges on Friday 7 March.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was reported missing hours after the ruling – but there is absolutely no evidence to suggest the two events are in any way linked.

Mr Anwar has always maintained the sodomy charges against him are part of a political smear campaign.

The 66-year-old was accused of having sex with a male aide in 2008 but was acquitted by the high court in 2012. The Malaysian Government appealed the decision.

An appeals court ruled on 7 March that the lower court’s decision to acquit Mr Anwar was wrong.

Human rights groups criticised the verdict, calling it politically motivated.

Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia, punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in the country.

Mr Anwar has previously voiced his opposition to repealing the laws, despite having been prosecuted by them.