A Dutch court on Thursday sentenced three men to life in prison for the 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine.
Russians Igor Gurkin and Sergei Dubinsky, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, were found guilty in absentia of shooting down a Boeing 777 with a Russian-supplied missile, killing all 298 people on board. sentenced. A fourth man was acquitted.
Moscow denounced the “scandalous” ruling as politically motivated, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is fighting a full-blown Russian aggression after years of low-level fighting in the east praised it as “important”.
Relatives of MH17 victims blinked in tears as the verdict was read out in a courtroom full of traveling families from around the world at the end of a two-and-a-half-year trial.
Chief Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said, “The court has determined that the proven charges are so severe that only the highest possible sentence of imprisonment is appropriate.”
“These verdicts will not take away the pain and suffering, but there is hope that today it is clear who is responsible.”
But after Russia refused to hand them over, none of the suspects were in the High Security Court on the outskirts of Schiphol Airport, where the doomed plane took off.
Australia accused Moscow of “housing a murderer” on Friday.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said, “I urge Russia to extradite those convicted so that they can be sentenced in court for heinous crimes.”
– “Justice Spoken” –
The trial marks the end of a long quest for justice for disaster victims, with 196 Dutch, 43 Malaysian and 38 Australians from 10 countries.
“Justice has spoken. We want justice to be done and it has come to pass in a very balanced verdict,” said MH17 Foundation President Pete Plogue, who lost his brother, sister-in-law and nephew. told AFP.
“Russia’s role has been very clearly affirmed by the court.”
Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was cruising 33,000 feet (10,000 m) over war-torn eastern Ukraine when a BUK missile exploded near the cockpit on 17 July 2014, tearing the fuselage apart. rice field.
The crash sparked global outrage and sanctions against Moscow as bodies and debris littered Ukraine’s famous sunflower fields. Some victims, including children, were still strapped to their seats.
The judge ruled that Girkin, Dubinsky, and Kharchenko could all be held responsible for transporting missiles from a Russian military base and deploying them to the launch site.
They said there was not enough evidence to point to Oleg Platov’s involvement, and he was the only suspect to have legal representation during the trial.
All suspects were members of the Donetsk People’s Republic. The Donetsk People’s Republic is an armed group fighting the Ukrainian government, which a judge ruled directly under Russia’s control.
– “Sufficient evidence” –
Gherkin, 51, a former Russian spy who became defense minister for the so-called DPR, is in regular contact with Russia, especially over the return of missiles after the tragedy, the court ruled.
Kharchenko, 50, who allegedly led the separatist forces, received direct orders from Dubinsky, 60, who is also linked to Russian intelligence, to escort the missiles to their final launch site. the court ruled.
The defendants clearly intended to shoot down a Ukrainian military plane rather than a civilian plane, but that did not affect their charges, the judge said.
Meanwhile, continued denials that Russia controls the DPR means the defendants cannot claim immunity from prosecution as full-fledged combatants, they added.
The court ruled that there was “sufficient evidence” that the aircraft was shot down by a missile, ruling out “another scenario” suggested by the defense, such as being shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet.
The BUK missile was identified as being from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade in Kursk, Russia, prosecutors said.
– “Unprecedented Pressure” –
Moscow has denied any involvement in the crash and on Thursday accused a Dutch court of ruling under “unprecedented pressure” from politicians and the media.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the trial could go down in history as “one of the most scandalous cases in the history of legal proceedings, because it is bizarre, inconsistent and contains many dubious allegations of the prosecution.” said to be sexual.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter: “It is also important to hold agitators accountable, because a sense of impunity leads to new crimes.”
The United States hailed the ruling as “a pivotal moment in our ongoing effort to bring justice to the 298 people who lost their lives.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the conviction was “not the end”, but NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said it was “an important day for justice and accountability”.
https://www.expatica.com/nl/general/three-sentenced-to-life-for-flight-mh17-downing-407703/ Three men sentenced to life in prison for shooting down Flight MH17