Tuesday 06 December 2022

MH17 prosecution: suspects guilty even if they didn’t ‘press the button’

The high security courtroom. Photo: N. van der Pas

Prosecutors in the trial of four men charged with downing Flight MH17 wrapped up their summary of evidence on Tuesday, saying the suspects worked together to supply the Buk-Telar missile that brought down the passenger jet.

Closing statements in the trial of three Russian men — Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov — and one Ukrainian man, Leonid Kharchenko, began on Monday. Prosecutors claim all four were leaders in a separatist movement and requested a surface-to-air missile system to attack Ukrainian military fighter jets.

The prosecution spent an unusually large amount of time detailing the evidence against the men, which mostly comes from intercepted phone calls and social media posts, as well as forensic evidence. The Public Prosecution Service said it was presenting its arguments in this way because the disaster and the trial had attracted such widespread attention. The trial is being live-streamed and translated into English.

All four men remain at large, although Pulatov has lawyers representing him in court. None of the men is accused of actually firing the missile that shot the Boeing 777 out of the sky in 2014; they allegedly participated in a “joint plan” to transport the surface-to-air missile to the firing location in eastern Ukraine. “That they did not press the button is legally irrelevant,” prosecutor Thijs Berger said. “Legally, the result is the same.”

The prosecution will wrap its closing arguments on Wednesday and announce the sentence it is requesting for the four men.

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