Lawyers of MH17 suspect to argue for acquittal
The extensive criminal trial about the downing of flight MH17 will continue from Monday. The lawyers representing Olgeg Pulatov will now have a turn to explain their side of the case. Pulatov and three co-defendants could face life imprisonment. The Russian man denies involvement in the plane crash on 17 July 2014. The other three suspects have not responded to calls from the court and have not appointed lawyers to represent them.
All 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines plane, including many Dutch people, died in the MH17 disaster. It is not known precisely why the plane, en route from Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, was shot down. The authorities believe that pro-Russian separatists did not realize it was a passenger flight when they shot it down. There was also an armed conflict going on in eastern Ukraine at that time.
After years of investigation, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) prosecuted four suspects: rebel leader Igor Girkin, his right-hand man Sergey Dubinskiy, his assistant Pulatov, and garrison commander Leonid Kharchenko. According to the OM, the men played a role in delivering or removing the BUK missile system that shot the plane down.
Pulatov's lawyers have reserved a total of 12 hearing days for their plea in the next four weeks. They expect to need almost all of those hours. Boudewijn van Eijck and Sabine ten Doesschate have already stated that they will argue that the OM's evidence is "unreliable and/or incomplete, that other evidence has been exposed unilaterally, that other information has not been exposed or has been unlawfully withheld." They believe the court should acquit Pulatov.
The lawyers said the current war in Ukraine does not change their job. "We have thought long and hard about whether the terrible war in Ukraine should affect our actions as lawyers for a Russian citizen," they said. "It is necessary, especially in times like these, that the principles of a democratic constitutional state remain intact."
They continued: "We cannot, must not, and do not want to bow to violations of the rule of law principles elsewhere in the world. Even when it is difficult, as it is now, it is the criminal lawyer's task to assist a suspect and keep doing so at the hearing and, in this way, contribute to the maintenance of our rule of law. We will therefore continue to do so."
The court expects to rule on this case in the second half of this year.
Reporting by ANP