Massive preparations for MH17 trial revealed; Hearings spread over 25 weeks

Wilbert Paulissen identifying the first four suspects to be prosecuted for the MH17 disaster, 19 June 2019
Wilbert Paulissen identifying the first four suspects to be prosecuted for the MH17 disaster, 19 June 2019Photo: Politie/JIT

The court case examining criminal responsibility in the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 will begin on March 9 at the heavily secured court complex at Schiphol airport. The case, officially assigned to the District Court in The Hague, will also provide a live stream of the court hearings, and a press center to accommodate up to 500 journalists and 300 workplaces.

The court has reserved 25 weeks for the trial. In 2020, those dates are March 9-13, March 23-27, June 8-July 3, and August 31-November 13. The court will also hear the case in 2021 from February 1 through March 26.

All 283 passengers and the 15 crew members who boarded the July 17, 2014, flight were killed after the Boeing 777 passenger just was struck by a missile. Reports into the disaster show that a Russian made surface-to-air BUK missile tore the plane apart as it flew over eastern Ukraine during a heavy period of fighting between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian military.

The surviving relatives of the 298 people killed will all be given an opportunity to speak in Courtroom D at the judicial complex.

Four suspects, Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov, and Leonid Kharchenko, have been accused by the Public Prosecution Service following an international investigation. It is still unclear if any of the defendants will be present for the court proceedings.

Three judges will preside over the court case, with two more judges Acting in a reserve capacity.

Laws in the Netherlands were also modified to make it possible to conduct portions of the trial in English. Those testifying in the case who are not able to attend will be able to do so by live video.

Security was identified as a top concern, and thus anyone wishing to attend the hearings will have to pass a security screening to gain access to the building.

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