On the second day of preliminary hearings in the MH17 murder trial, the public prosecution department is outlining the contours of the investigation so far and is expected to suggest that the main trial be dealt with in stages.
Four suspects – three Russians and one Ukrainian – are charged with causing the crash of flight MH17, resulting in the death of all 298 persons on board, and of their murder. The four are alleged to have cooperated to obtain and deploy the BUK missile at the firing location with the aim of shooting down the aircraft.
One of the four, Russian national Oleg Pulatov, has hired a Dutch lawyer to represent him although neither he nor the other three are at the high security Schiphol courtroom.
The lawyer told television current affairs show Nieuwsuur on Monday night that Pulatov may be willing to be questioned by the court via a video link, but will not come to the Netherlands because he would be arrested.
The public prosecutor discussed at length whether Pulatov could be granted ‘safe passage’ to testify, but following Dutch case law, it cannot be guaranteed that he would be protected from prosecution. ‘It would be hard to see someone leaving the courtroom who has been charged in this case,’ said Thijs Berger, one of the three prosecutors in the case.
Much of the rest of the day has focused on the quality of the evidence. Behind the scenes, Russia has been attempting to discredit the evidence, much of which is open-source including Google Map images and social media posts.
This week’s sessions are largely procedural and the actual hearings are not expected to start until the autumn, at the earliest. Some experts take the case will take several years. According to broadcaster NOS, the Dutch government has set aside €54m to fund the case up to 2023.
At the end of the hearing, it is expected that the legal representative for the victims will speak before the court.
Tuesday’s proceedings can be followed via this link.
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