The trial in the case of Boeing 777 downed in July 2014 in Donbas and killing 298 men, women and children on board begins today, on March 9, 2020. The trial will take place high-security court near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. This location was chosen because the courtroom facility in The Hague is not equipped for a case of this magnitude. Live broadcasts are planned, and a press center is also going to be organized on the spot, accommodating up to 500 journalists and 300 workstations.
The process will be led by three judges, with another two acting in a reserve capacity. Hendrik Steenhuis shall preside at the hearing. Back in 2016, the judge handled a hate speech trial against PVV leader Geert Wilders about statements he made about Moroccans.
NL Times writes that the trial will last 25 weeks. In 2020, it will be held on March 9-13, March 23-27, June 8 - July 3 and August 31 - September 3. In 2021, the court will consider the case from February to March 26.
The four suspects will be tried in the case. But let's get back to them later. Let's first recall the basic facts about the tragedy that happened almost six years ago.
The tragedy of MH17. Key facts
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down in the sky over the war-torn Donbas on July 17, 2014.
Due to a big number of deceased MH17 catastrophe became the largest in the history of aviation since September 11, 2001.
It also entered the top ten largest air crashes in history, ranking 9th.
According to the international investigation team, the plane was shot down from the Buk installation, owned by the 53rd Air Defense Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Prior to this, in May 2018, the Netherlands officially accused Russia of involvement in the crash of flight MH17.
Russia from the very beginning denied all charges, simultaneously inventing various versions of the tragedy, most of which hinted at Ukraine’s involvement.
None of the versions were confirmed.
Several groups of relatives of the victims initiated lawsuits against Ukraine, Malaysia, Russia and Malaysia Airlines.
Let's get to the suspects
There are four of them:
- Igor Girkin (Strelkov);
- Sergey Dubinsky (Khmury);
- Oleg Pulatov (Gyurza);
- Leonid Kharchenko (Krot or Mole).
"Why are these four? Girkin - because at that time he held the most important military post in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Dubinsky was his deputy, Pulatov - deputy for Dubinsky, and Kharchenko - because he was subordinate to Dubinsky. Thus it became possible to recreate a "single chain" in this case, investigators believe," DW wrote.
According to Wilbert Paulissen, Dutch National Police chief and one of the heads of the JIT international investigative group, Dutch laws make it possible to bring these suspects to responsibility, despite the fact that "they did not press a button themselves". At the same time, according to the conclusions of the investigation, Girkin and another three suspects "facilitated the delivery of military equipment from the Russian Federation and coordinated the actions of the air defense systems."
Thus, these four played a "key role in the murdering 298 people".
It must be said that investigators believe that the chain of suspects is longer. Earlier another two were referred at the press conference - a former senior lieutenant and a captain, their names have not been disclosed.
Investigators also mentioned that there were four crew members on the “mission”. Their names are not disclosed either due to the "lack of evidence against these people", so they can't be brought to trial, DW quoted investigators.
All relatives of 298 dead in a plane crash will be able to speak in court, according to NLTimes. It is still unclear whether any of the accused will attend the trial.
The legislation of the Netherlands was changed to make it possible to conduct part of the trial in English.
Those who are ready to testify but cannot be present in The Hague will be able to do this through video call.
An online broadcast of the trial will also be organized. On the day of trial it will be available here.