Dutch prosecutors ask for life in prison for four suspects on trial in absentia accused of downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine with a surface-to-air missile, killing 298 people
Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday called for life in prison for four suspects on trial in absentia accused of downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine with a surface-to-air missile, killing 298 people.
The ill-fated flight heading for Kuala Lumpur took off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport in July 2014, and prosecutors this week launched closing arguments in the closely watched trial.
The four suspects on trial are Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian citizen Leonid Kharchenko, accused of launching the BUK missile that hit the plane over war-torn eastern Ukraine.
All four have refused to appear in court in the Netherlands and are being tried in absentia.
International investigators say the missile was originally brought from a Russian military base, ostensibly to be used in the fight against Ukrainian forces.
Prosecutors said the missile’s deployment was planned and organised, and that it did not matter whether the suspects made a mistake in targeting a passenger plane.
“In legal terms, the defendants were civilians and were therefore not allowed to shoot at any aircraft, whether civilian or military.”
“There were children from one year old on that plane. They had their whole life… there’s no life. It’s awful,” he told reporters outside the court.
“There’s only one sentence that’s appropriate for this crime, and that’s life imprisonment,” he told AFP.
The hearings come as fresh tensions soar over Ukraine, with the West accusing Moscow of planning an invasion.
Russia has recently massed troops near Ukraine’s borders and the West has for weeks accused it of planning an invasion, warning Moscow of massive sanctions should it launch an attack.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of “double standards” shortly before the trial started.
Western nations imposed tough sanctions on Russia amid international outrage over the shooting down of flight MH17.
He said Wednesday he was not surprised by the prosecutors’ request, and denied the rebels shot down the plane.
Dubinsky, 57, is said to be linked to Russian military intelligence, while Pulatov, 53, is a former member of the Russian special forces and Dubinsky’s deputy.
Pulatov denies any involvement in the crash, and his lawyers said Wednesday the trial evidence was “incomplete”, calling for him to be acquitted, Dutch media reported.