MH17 aircraft wreckage seen by judges ahead of next phase of trial | World news

By Piroschka van de Wouw and Stephanie van den Berg

GILZE-RIJEN AIR BASE, Netherlands (Reuters) – Judges overseeing the murder trial of four suspects in the 2014 bombing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine detained by the rebels saw the plane wreckage on Wednesday, two weeks before prosecutors presented their case.

The MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels during fighting with Ukrainian government troops, international investigators concluded. All 298 people on board were killed, two-thirds of whom are Dutch nationals.

The Netherlands, citing the use of a Russian missile launcher imported from a Russian military base, holds Moscow responsible for the deaths. Russian denies any involvement.

So far, the trial hearings, which began in March 2020, have been approached by procedural matters, with no testimony heard or witnesses called. On June 7, prosecutors are due to make their opening statements in the case.

They lodged a complaint against three Russians and a Ukrainian, all at large, accused of having participated in the downing of the plane.

The remains of the plane were recovered from the crash site and rebuilt in a hangar at an airbase in the Netherlands, where they were seen by judges, lawyers, prosecutors and relatives of the victims .

Arlette Schijns, lawyer representing the families, stressed the importance of giving the court a first-hand impression of the extent of the damage.

“We cannot come close to the death of the 298 victims,” she said.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said before seeing the wreckage: “This is a reconstruction of the plane in which their loved ones were going to a destination they never reached.”

The defendants – Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko – have so far not attended the hearings. Pulatov is the only one to have appointed a defense team, the others being tried in absentia.

Through his lawyer, Pulatov denied any involvement.

Under Dutch law, defendants are not required to plead.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg and Piroschka van de Wouw; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Alison Williams)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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