Dutch court jails 3 for life, acquits 1 in MH17 case – POLITICO

A Dutch court on Thursday found three men guilty of murdering 298 people aboard flight MH17, which was shot down by a missile while flying over Ukraine in 2014.

Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. The court also condemned them to pay more than 16 million euros in compensation to the victims.

A fourth suspect, Russian Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted because « no evidence » of his involvement was found.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014 when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine, at a time of conflict between pro rebels -Russian and Ukrainian forces in the region. All 298 passengers on board were killed, including 196 Dutch citizens.

The judge also ruled that the missile came from the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, stating that « the court is of the opinion that MH17 was killed by firing a Buk missile from an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi ». This confirms the earlier findings of an international investigation led by the Netherlands.

Russian authorities have repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

However, although the court said the missile was fired deliberately, it ruled that it was not intended to hit an airliner.

International investigators announced charges against the three Russians and a Ukrainian in June 2019, with the first hearing taking place in March 2020 in the Netherlands.

In 2020, the Netherlands sued Russia in the European Court of Human Rights over the shooting of MH17.

None of the defendants ever appeared in court. Prosecutors had requested life sentences for all four. Their legal teams have two weeks to file an appeal.

Hundreds of family members of the victims turned up in court, located in a high-security courtroom at Schiphol Airport, to hear the verdict.

Peter Neenan, a partner in the aviation team at British law firm Stewarts, which represented around 30 families of passengers, called the verdict « an important step in the fight of the families of the victims for justice, truth and the responsibility ».

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also welcomed the court’s decision, saying that « holding the masterminds to account is also crucial, as the feeling of impunity leads to new crimes ».


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