Names of all MH17 victims read out as trial begins

The judges hearing the MH17 murder trial in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. (AP pic)

AMSTERDAM: The names of all 298 passengers and crew who died in the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) were read out in court today, as the trial of four suspects in the shooting down of the plane began.

Public prosecutor Dedy Woei-A-Tsoi read out the names of the plane’s occupants who were from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines and the United Kingdom.

“In the opinion of the public prosecution service, they organised around July 17 a deadly weapon, a BUK missile system, to be transported to East Ukraine.

“As well as arranging that said BUK to be at a certain location of which a missile was launched, they also saw to it that the deadly weapon was returned.

“The consequence of the actions of the defendants was the death of …” she said in her prosecution presentation before going on to read out each name.

Three Russians and a Ukrainian are being charged in absentia for causing the plane’s crash and for the murder of the 298 persons on board under Section 168 and Section 289 of the Dutch Criminal Code.

Both offences carry a penalty of life in prison or a term of imprisonment not more than 30 years.

The four – Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko – had held senior positions in the pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine in 2014. The Joint Investigation Team said they had not pulled the trigger, but colluded to carry out the attack.

Girkin was minister of defence in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in Ukraine. Dubinsky, Pulatov and Kharchenko were members of the separatists’ military intelligence unit.

The defendants are at large and did not show up in court, although Pulatov was represented by two Dutch lawyers who were in contact with a Russian colleague.

The bench of judges comprises The Hague District Court judges Hendrik Steenhuis, Dagmar Kosterm and Helen Kersterns-Fockens, with Steenhuis as the presiding judge. Two additional judges have also been appointed as replacements should the need arise.

“The consequences of what happened in this case, the impact for the next of kin, is almost inconceivable, and the heavy silence in this room when the names were being read out of all who lost their lives made abundantly clear that everybody is sitting here lost in their thoughts,” Steenhuis said after the prosecution’s presentation.

MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, leaving no survivors.

Wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell to the ground in fields surrounding the Ukrainian village of Hrabove in territory held by pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian government forces.