Dutch court to pass verdicts in MH17 downed flight over Ukraine


A Dutch court is set to rule on Thursday in the case of four men with ties to Russia charged with mass murder for their alleged roles in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

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MH17 was a passenger flight that was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

At the time, the area was the scene of fighting between pro-Russian separatist and Ukrainian forces, the precursor to this year’s conflict.

Victims’ representatives say the verdict will be an important milestone, although the suspects, who all face life in prison, remain at large. They are all believed to be in Russia, which will not extradite them.

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

Prosecutors say the suspects, three former Russian intelligence officers and a Ukrainian separatist military leader, helped arrange and transport a Russian army BUK missile system to Ukraine that was used to shoot down the plane.

They were charged with shooting down an airplane and with murder in a trial under Dutch law. They could alternatively be tried on manslaughter charges if judges at The Hague District Court find that the act was not premeditated.

Wiretaps that formed a key part of the evidence against the men suggested they believed they were targeting a Ukrainian fighter jet.

Three of the men were tried in absentia and the fourth pleaded guilty through lawyers he hired to represent him. No one attended the trial.

The victims of MH17 which had been traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur came from 10 different countries. More than half were Dutch.

The investigation was led by the Netherlands, with participation from Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia and Belgium.

The suspects are Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov; and the Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.

Judges will begin reading the verdict at 13:30 local time (1230 GMT) at the high-security court next to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

(REUTERS)

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