MH17 trial at an end: Defense accuses prosecutor of tunnel vision; Family ready for closure
Two years, three months, and one day after the start of the lawsuit around the downing of flight MH17, Friday is the last day of the substantive treatment of the massive trial. The lawyers representing Oleg Pulatov, the only suspect who hired someone to defend him, had the last chance to give their views on the case. They believe that the Russian should be acquitted and accuse the prosecution of "tunnel vision" and an "inability to see how risky it is to ignore the red flags in one's own story."
In a video message shown in the court at Schiphol on Friday, Pulatov reiterated that he is innocent. He said he sympathized with the relatives of the "terrible disaster." But he had nothing to do with the plane crash, he said. "The Public Prosecution Service has unfoundedly announced to the whole world that I am guilty of the murder of 298 people. It is also important for me that the truth comes to light." He and his family are suffering heavily from the allegations, he said.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down on 17 July 2014 in eastern Ukraine, where an armed battle was underway. The aircraft was en route from Schiphol to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people on board were killed.
According to the Public Prosecution Service (OM), pro-Russian separatists are responsible for deploying the BUK missile that brought down the plane. They may not have realized that it was a passenger flight, the OM thinks. Rebel leader Igor Girkin, his right-hand hand Sergei Dubinsky, and garrison commander Leonid Chartshenko are on trial alongside Pulatov. According to the OM, the men played a role in bringing or removing the BUK missile installation.
The OM demanded life imprisonment against all four suspects. Pulatov was the only of the four suspects to be represented by lawyers. He has denied any involvement, and his lawyers argued for acquittal.
Families react to the end of hearings
A relative in the courtroom sighed and said, "It is done," when the court indicated that the substantive part of the extensive criminal case concerning the downing of flight MH17 was actually completed. The sample process, which started more than two years ago, is now headed towards the final phase, the verdict.
Various relatives, many of whom were present in the maximum security court facility every time the case was on the docket in recent years, hugged the public prosecutors when the hearing was over.
The court will give its verdict on 17 November at the earliest. "We will take our time with that," said the judge. He spoke about the large amount of information that was discussed. "We have to comprehend it in detail."
The court chair said the trial "has made a big impression on all of us." He was referring in particular to the victim statements given last September. For three weeks, dozens of relatives told in court or via a video link what the MH17 disaster meant to them and their lives. "Courageous," said the chair.
Reporting by ANP