MH17 trial continues with first substantive hearing on Monday
On Monday, the first substantive hearing in the criminal trial against four men suspected of involvement in the downing of flight MH17 will be held in the high-security court at Schiphol. It seems unlikely that any of the suspects will appear for the hearing. Only one - Oleg Pulatov - appointed lawyers to represent him and said that he was willing to testify.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over Eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014. All 298 people on board were killed, including 196 Dutch people. Multiple investigations showed that MH17 was shot down with a BUK missile system from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces, fired from a field in eastern Ukraine that was in the hands of pro-Russian separatists at the time.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) also identified four men as involved in the downing of the passenger plane. The four suspects are Sergey Dubinskiy, Oleg Pulatov, Igor Girkin, and Leonid Kharchenko. Dubinsky is a former Russian intelligence officer who in 2014 stood at the head of the intelligence service for separatist group DNR. Pulatov was Dubinsky's second in command. Both played an important role in the transport of the BUK missile that shot down MH17, according to the JIT. Girkin was the "Minister of Defense" of the DNR and a former Russian intelligence officer. Kharchenko was head of a battalion that was active in the area from where the BUK missile was fired.
The criminal trial against these first four suspects officially started on March 9 last year. Over the past 15 months there were various pro-forma and preparatory hearings, as well as an inspection of the reconstruction of the shot down plane at the army base in Gilze-Rijen last month. The process surrounding the downing of MH17 is considered a "monster process", with the criminal case file comprising of over 40 thousand pages and thousands of multimedia files.
Hearings in this trial are currently scheduled until mid-November this year, though it seems likely that the case will continue into next year. In September, the victims' surviving relatives will have the chance to speak, according to NU.nl. All hearings can be watched on a livestream.