Dutch court to rule in November on MH17 downing

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Dutch judges will deliver their verdict on November 17 in the trial of four suspects accused of downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, a court said Monday.

Three Russians and a Ukrainian, who all remain at large, are accused of supplying the missile that intercepted the jet as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board.

The trial began in March 2020 at a high-security court near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, from where the doomed Boeing 777 had taken off. Prosecutors have demanded life sentences.

"November 17, 2022 has been chosen as the provisional ruling date in the MH17 criminal trial," the court said in a statement.

The decision "will take a part of the day and will probably take place in the afternoon."

Prosecutors say the plane was shot down on July 17, 2014, by a Russian-made BUK missile, fired from territory in eastern Ukraine occupied by pro-Moscow separatists.

The trial is being held in the Netherlands, following a huge international investigation, because most of the victims were Dutch citizens.

But the case has taken on renewed significance after Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine in which a slew of new war crimes are being alleged.

Dutch prosecutors in December called for life terms for all four of the men on trial: Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.

Pulatov is the only accused with legal representation and all four have refused to appear in court, insisting they are innocent.

Prosecutors allege the four played pivotal roles in securing the BUK system, which was most likely intended to shoot down a Ukrainian warplane.

Girkin also known by his pseudonym "Strelkov", is the most high-profile suspect -- a former Russian spy who helped kickstart the conflict in Ukraine in 2014, and has been vocal about the current war.

International investigators said the BUK missile was originally brought from a Russian military base, ostensibly to be used in the fight against Ukrainian forces.

Pulatov's lawyers said prosecutors failed to show that a Russian-supplied BUK brought down the jetliner, saying there were "gaps" in the prosecution's case.

They said the prosecution could not prove its theory based on tapped telephone conversations, images and witness statements that it was indeed the missile that caused MH17 to crash, asking judges to acquit their client.


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