Dutch court sentences three to life in prison for 2014 downing of MH17 over Ukraine

  • 298 passengers died in the crash.
  • The court found that the plane was shot down by a Russian missile.
  • The convicted men are believers in Russia.

Amsterdam, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Dutch judges have convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian of murder and sentenced them to life in prison for their role in the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, which killed 298 passengers and crew. .

Ukraine welcomed the ruling, which Moscow called a “scandal” and would have implications for other court cases Kyiv has brought against Russia, saying it would not extradite its citizens.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down on July 17, 2014, in eastern Ukraine, a precursor to this year’s conflict as fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces rages.

More than 200 people came to the courthouse in person after the verdict was handed down, much to the relief of family members who were judged.

“Only severe punishment is appropriate to retaliate for the actions of the suspects,” he said. It caused a lot of suffering to the many victims and the surviving relatives,” said Judge Hendrik Steenhuis.

The three convicted were former Russian intelligence agents Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Ukrainian separatist leader Leonid Kharchenko.

All three were found to have assisted in the delivery to Ukraine of the Russian military’s BUK missile system used in the downing of the plane, but they were not the ones who physically towed the missile.

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They are fugitives and are believed to be in Russia. A fourth suspect, Russian national Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted of all charges.

The 2014 incident left the wreckage of the plane and the remains of the victims scattered over fields of corn and sunflowers.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February and claims to have occupied Donetsk province, where the plane was shot down.

“The families of the victims want the truth, they want justice, they want those responsible to be punished, and I’m glad this happened.” Piet Ploeg, who heads a foundation representing the victims, told Reuters. Ploeg’s brother; His brother’s wife and nephew died on MH17.

Australian Meryn O’Brien, who lost her 25-year-old son Jack, said she was relieved. “Everyone is relieved the process is over,” he said. Very fair and thorough.”

“There was no celebration,” said Jordan Withers of Britain, whose uncle Glenn Thomas died. “The refugees were sent nothing back. They came from 10 different countries.”

The judgment awarded damages of 16 million euros.

The first sentence handed down by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy over MH17 was hailed as an important decision by The Hague Court.

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“But those who give orders need to end up in the dock because the sense of impunity leads to new crimes,” he wrote on Twitter. “We must dispel this illusion. Punishment for all Russian atrocities is inevitable.”

In mid-May 2014, the ruling found that Russia had total control over the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine.

Marieke de Hoon, assistant professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam, said: “It’s amazing. The ruling is “legal” and is likely to boost Ukraine’s other international cases against Russia related to the 2014 conflict.

‘Undoubtedly’

Judge Steenhuis said there was sufficient evidence from eyewitness accounts and photographs tracking the movement of the missile system from Ukraine to Russia.

Steenhuis said there was no reasonable doubt that MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile system.

Moscow denies any involvement or responsibility for the downing of MH17, and in 2014 denied any presence in Ukraine.

In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said: “The court has decided to impose a politically motivated outcome throughout the trial, including Dutch politicians, “We are under unprecedented pressure from prosecutors and the media,” he said.

“The District Court in The Hague has dealt a discreditable blow to the entire legal system in the Netherlands because it ignored the principles of impartial justice in favor of the current political situation,” it said.

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More than half of the defendants were Dutch, so the trial, under Dutch law, charged four people with shooting down the plane and murder. The phone intercepts were a key piece of evidence suggesting that a Ukrainian fighter jet was being targeted.

Although Steenhuis considered something to reduce the severity of their criminal liability. They still have the intent to kill and the consequences of their actions are huge, Steenhuis said.

Among the suspects, only Pulatov pleaded not guilty through lawyers hired to represent him. Others were tried in absentia and none attended.

Ukraine Malaysia The investigation was led by police in the Netherlands, joined by Australia and Belgium.

Dutch and Australian authorities said Thursday’s verdict was not the final word on holding people accountable for MH17.

Andy Kraag, the police chief of investigations, said they are researching possible suspects higher up the chain of command. Investigators are also monitoring the crew of the missile system that launched the deadly rocket.

The governments of the Netherlands and Australia, which are responsible for Russia, have initiated proceedings against the Russian Federation at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Toby Sterling; Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Bart Meijer; Jon Boyle Alex Richardson Toby Chopra Edited by Alexandra Hudson.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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