Relatives plan to address the hearings as MH17 trial resumes

Flowers outside the Dutch embassy in Kiev after the disaster. Photo: katatonia82
Flowers outside the Dutch embassy in Kiev after the disaster. Photo: katatonia82

The trial of four men for their role in the downing of flight MH17 killing all 298 people on board, resumed at the high-security courtroom at Schiphol airport on Monday.

The trial, which began in March, is still in its preliminary stages. Monday’s hearings focused on issues raised by the lawyers representing some 450 relatives of those killed in the crash.

Compensation and statements

‘It’s about justice, fairness, crime, and punishment,’ said lawyer Arlette Schijns on behalf of the next of kin. She also outlined the legal argument for allowing The Hague district court to also adjudicate on any future civil claims for financial compensation.

In total, 76 relatives say that they want to address the court – of those 66 want to do so in person and 10 from another location. A further 127 victims want to submit a written victim impact statement and 316 victims have indicated that they want to apply for (financial) compensation.

The lawyers for relatives thought that each person would speak for between 15 and 20 minutes, a time period with the public prosecutor agreed with.

Lawyers for Oleg Pulatov, the only suspect to have retained counsel, told the court they had been unable to travel to Russia to meet their client during the two-month summer break in hearings. The other three men, Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Leonid Kharchenko, are being tried in absentia without legal representation.

The four suspects are charged with causing the crash of flight MH17, resulting in the death of all persons on board, and of their murder.  All four are said to have played key roles in the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ in eastern Ukraine, where the Buk missile which brought down the plane was fired.

Flight MH17

Everyone onboard flight MH17 was killed when it was struck by a missile on July 17, 2014, and crashed into fields in eastern Ukraine. Two-thirds of the passengers on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were Dutch.

The official investigation concluded in 2016 that the plane was shot down from Ukrainian farmland by a BUK missile ‘controlled by pro-Russian fighters’. That conclusion has been disputed by Russia, which claims that Ukrainian fighters were responsible.

Hearings will resume on September 28th.

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