Prosecutors seek life imprisonment for MH17 suspects
Prosecutors recommended life sentences for the four men suspected of downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during a hearing in the judicial complex near Schiphol Airport on Wednesday. According to the Public Prosecution Service (OM), the three Russians and one Ukrainian were directly involved in the plane crash on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed, including many Dutch people.
The suspects are rebel leader Igor Girkin, his right-hand man Sergei Dubinsky, his assistant Oleg Pulatov and garrison commander Leonid Khartshenko. The men played a role in bringing the Buk missile installation into the area where it was fired at the Boeing 777, or removing from the scene, the OM said. "The devastating violence did not happen on a whim. It was planned and organized by the suspects," said the prosecutor. "It is not legally relevant whether or not they pressed the button themselves."
The men deny any involvement. None of them have appeared in court, though Pulatov has legal representation.
It is not known exactly why the plane was shot down while en route from Schiphol to the Malaysian capital. The most likely scenario is that the pro-Russian separatists did not realize it was a passenger flight. At that time, there was an armed conflict going on in eastern Ukraine.
On Wednesday, the public prosecutor extensively discussed the "extremely large consequences" for the relatives of the plane crash, whose lives will be forever effected by the tragedy. “There is a life for the relatives before the downing of MH17, and a life after." He spoke about the grim goodbyes relatives had to say to their deceased loved ones.
"The remains of the victims and their belongings were at the site of the disaster for weeks, maybe even months. Only unrecognizable body parts of some victims werefound, and sometimes nothing at all."
The OM also criticized the attitude of the suspects. Girkin, among others, actively disseminated fake news to obfuscate the true facts of the downing of MH17, prosecutors claimed, and an outright refusal to take responsibility for the crash. "Questions that could have been answered remain unanswered." The public prosecutor spoke of a contemptuous attitude the suspects displayed towards the relatives. "Sometimes a life sentence is the only punishment that does justice to the pain and the seriousness of the consequences."
The case will resume in March, when Pulatov’s legal team will present their defense.
Like almost every hearing during this extensive legal process, which started in March 2020, relatives were again present in court on Wednesday. The session is also being followed by many via the livestream.
Reporting by ANP