Australia hits back at Mahathir over MH17 comments

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. (AFP pic)

PETALING JAYA: Canberra has rebuked Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for questioning the findings of a probe into the downing of Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH17 and insisted that Russia was “directly involved” in it.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said her government had full confidence in the “impartiality, independence and professionalism of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT)”, which also comprised representatives from Malaysia.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Payne as saying that this was why the Australian government “moved decisively with the Netherlands” to notify Russia that they held it responsible under international law.

“I note that at the JIT’s recent press conference on June 19, the Malaysian representative to the JIT reaffirmed the thorough nature of JIT’s investigation and evidence, as well as Malaysia’s support for the JIT’s conclusions on the four suspects announced,” the daily quoted her as saying.

Payne was referring to Malaysian prosecutor Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria, who said the findings were “based on extensive investigations and also legal research”.

Hanafiah also said that Malaysia supported the JIT’s findings.

Mahathir had earlier this week called the move by Dutch-led investigators to charge three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder for the 2014 disaster “ridiculous” and “politically motivated” against Moscow.

He also said that Putrajaya was “very unhappy” as from the very beginning it became a political issue on how to accuse Russia of wrongdoing. He also said that Malaysia wanted proof of Russia’s involvement as there has been only “hearsay”.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has since slammed Mahathir for creating “confusion” by criticising the decision to charge the four people. Rutte also said he would contact the Malaysian government about Mahathir’s comments.

The Boeing 777 was travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was blown apart by a missile over part of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed rebels on July 17, 2014.

All 298 people on board were killed.