Netherlands to resume MH17 court hearing

AMSTERDAM, 8 June 2021:

Hearings for the MH17 trial will commence in the coming week with the objective of shedding light on three unresolved questions concerning the Malaysia Airlines flight shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

MH17 was brought down by a missile fired from war-torn eastern Ukraine during its flight between Schipol airport in Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 17 July 2014. All 298 people onboard were killed.

Judges at the trial want to address three allegations from the prosecution, court president justice Hendrik Steenhuis said.

“Did the MH17 flight crash as a result of a Buk missile attack? Was a Buk missile launched from a crop field near Pervomaiskyi? And finally, did the defendants play a role in this?”

A Joint Investigation team (JIT) concluded the aircraft was attacked by a Russian-made Buk missile belonging to the Russian army – more specifically the 53rd brigade of anti-aircraft missiles, based in Kursk, Russia, near the Ukranian border.

According to the JIT, the rocket was transferred to an area controlled by rebels in eastern Ukraine in a convoy and was delivered to the pro-Russian separatists only days before the MH17 incident, a claim that Russia has consistently denied.

The court yesterday confirmed the US has turned down requests to share more data collected from satellite images showing the missile launch, due to security concerns.

Three of the defendants – Russians Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko – face rebellion charges for failing to appear before court in the Netherlands and showing no intention to collaborate.

The fourth defendant, Russian Oleg Pulatov, did not travel to the Netherlands either but sent a legal team to represent him, which he met with in Moscow to prepare his defence as he pleads not guilty.

The four suspects are believed to have played a relevant role in the transport and guarding of the rocket, although none are accused of ordering to fire the missile or launching it themselves.

The Pulatov defence has called for the consideration of different scenarios not involving a missile, such as an attack from within the plane or an accident.

However, Steenhuis confirmed the investigators have already concluded the MH17 flight was shot down by a Buk missile.

The prosecution will also present intercepted phone communications as evidence, which the defence has argued were part of propaganda efforts to confuse enemy combatants.

In September, the family of the victims will have the opportunity to step onto the witness stand to tell their story and explain the effects the tragedy had in their lives.