Tuesday 20 August 2019

MH17 prosecutor: trial could start within months

A reconstruction of the wreckage of MH17 by the Dutch Safety Board.

Dutch prosecutors may be ready to start the trial of those accused of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 within months, the head of the investigation team has told a Russian newspaper.

Senior public prosecutor Fred Westerbeke told Novaja Gazeta a number of suspects were in the frame but Dutch law prevented him from naming names. ‘We will disclose everything when this investigation is over, and we will give the names at the trial,’ he said.

‘If we want to have someone arrested, we will turn to Interpol,’ he added. ‘We have procedures to follow. This stage is yet to come, but we will do it, if any arrests are required.’

All 298 people on board flight MH17 were 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 JIT’s preliminary investigations concluded last year 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.

Westerbeke said the investigation could be tied up within weeks if ‘a number of witnesses’ contacted his team and gave a full account of what they knew, but a timeframe of several months to a year was more likely.

He added that there was no question of bargaining or a diplomatic quid pro quo to bring the suspects to court. ‘Our sole mission is to establish the facts,’ he said. ‘In case somebody missed this, I repeat: the truth is [a] non-negotiable issue. This kind of approach does not work in the Netherlands.’

The case will be brought in the Dutch courts after Russia blocked an attempt to take it to a United Nations tribunal. Westerbeke said he had achieved ‘some form’ of co-operation from Russia but questioned why it took two years for the Russians to release radar data from the area where the plane was brought down.

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