MH17 defence contests official investigation; Urges closer look into events
Defence lawyers have called for more investigation into the cause of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17's crash, arguing that the prosecution had been ignoring the facts when carrying out their forensic examination of the crash site. The testimony comes as Oleg Pulatov and three others stand trial for his involvement in the July 2014 incident in which all 298 people on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, including 193 Dutch nationals, tragically lost their lives.
"Objective fact-finding had really been put very much on the back-burner in this case," Pulatov's lawyer, Boudewijn van Eijck, told the court according to multiple reports. The Russian military official is the only defendant to have representation in the case. Sergey Dubinskiy and Igor Girkin, both Russian, also stand accused in the case, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. The three have not retained legal counsel. None of the four have physically appeared in court, though there was speculation that Pulatov could testify in the case.
Calling into question whether a Russian Buk missile had indeed been responsible for shooting down MH17, the defence instead asserted the possibility that a Ukrainian fighter jet may have used the plane as a "human shield" to try to deter pro-Russian ground forces from shooting down a commercial aircraft.
Despite the fact that the court had found no radar evidence of a fighter jet being present in the air on the day, the defence maintained that more evidence should be gathered in order to prove the fact. "Although this scenario might seem unlikely, it is important that this scenario is investigated to exclude it," Van Eijck said to this end.
The theory that an unseen Ukrainian fighter jet over Ukrainian air space led to the missile launch has long been suggested by Russian officials and the country's media. The official investigation into the crash said no such situation existed, and noted that Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists had shot down 16 military planes in the months leading up to the downing of MH17. Several independent investigators examined radar images from Russia that day, and also determined that no such fighter jet was flying in the area at that time.
Van Eijck also pointed out that, because the prosecutors have not been able to determine exactly who it was that ordered the missile to be fired, subsequent investigations into the matter have been inherently flawed. "In order to assess the accusations against the defendant, it is essential for the final parts of this investigation to be known," he contested.
After kicking off on March 9, the hearings were delayed until June in order to give Pulatov's lawyers enough time to study an extensive set of case files and to account for the backlog in cases due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Netherlands.
The trial is part of the largest criminal investigation in Dutch history, involving dozens of prosecutors and 200 investigators from the Public Prosecution Service (OM). Russian authorities have fervently denied their country's connection with the incident and largely dismissed the international investigation into the matter.