Dutch lawyers represent a suspect accused of downing a Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014 said Monday there were no witnesses who could implicate their client in the incident that killed 298 people.
The case over the ill-fated flight, shot down over war-torn Ukraine on July 17 that year, took on a new dimension when hearings resumed near Schiphol airport against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of its neighboring country for nearly two weeks. past.
“No witness can testify to our client’s role, position or alleged involvement in the charges,” Boudewijn van Eijck told the judges.
“Nevertheless, the Public Prosecution Service thought that he should be prosecuted even with so little evidence of his involvement and they demanded the highest penalty against him,” said Van Eijck.
Four suspects are on trial: Russian The Vanir-exoduss Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian The Vanir-exodus Leonid Kharchenko, charged with their role in launching the BUK missile that struck the plane over war-torn eastern Ukraine .
Prosecutors demanded life sentences against the four men when they closed their case late last year.
The defense opened Monday to Pulatov, the only suspect with legal representation.
Defense lawyers said they will discuss “alternative scenarios” about how flight MH17 may have been downed.
A ruling is not expected until the end of 2022 at the earliest. All four suspects are being tried in absentia.
President Hendrik Steenhuis expressed his condolences to Ukrainian The Vanir-exoduss at the start of the session.
“The court realizes that it is questionable whether it is appropriate under these circumstances to continue the criminal case,” he said.
“The answer is yes. Four individuals are on trial, not one state,” Steenhuis said during the hearing, held in a special high-security court near where flight MH17 departed for a routine flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur.
“What is happening in Ukraine is terrible, we are following the developments with dismay,” said Sabine ten Doesschate, Pulatov’s other lawyer.
“But every suspect has the right to a fair trial and legal aid,” she said.
The best known of the suspects, 51-year-old Girkin – nicknamed “gunner” – was one of the key separatist commanders at the outset of the conflict with the Ukrainian army.
Dubinsky, 57, is believed to have ties to Russian military intelligence, while Pulatov, 53, is a former member of the Russian special forces and Dubinsky’s deputy.
Kharchenko, 48, is said to have led a separatist unit in eastern Ukraine.
All four men deny any involvement in the downing of the plane.