Dutch judges ruled today that the trial of four suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014 could continue despite none of them turning up at court in the Netherlands.
Proceedings could go ahead against three of the suspects – two Russians and a Ukrainian – “in absentia”, while another Russian would be represented by a lawyer but would not be present, chief judge Hendrik Steenhuis said.
“We assume they have waived their right to be present since they do not value the right to be present,” Judge Steenhuis said, adding that attempts had been made to issue summonses by post and social media.
“The court will allow the due process to prevail … and we will try them in absentia.”
Judge Steenhuis called on a court to disregard years of media reports about the MH17 air disaster and focus solely on the evidence.
The trial of Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Ukranian Leonid Kharchenko over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 almost six years began at the Schiphol Justice Complex today.
All 298 people aboard, including 38 who called Australia home, were killed after a surface-to-air missile was allegedly fired at the passenger plane over the eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
The men are accused of murder and the destruction of a civilian airliner for their alleged role in furnishing the missile used in the attack.
“The crash of flight MH17 … to this date has led to a large amount of reports in the media,” Judge Steenhuis said.
“These reports won’t have escaped anyone, they haven’t escaped the court either.
“In this criminal case, we’re focusing on the result of the criminal investigation.”
He also noted Russian-speaking defendant Pulatov hadn’t had a chance to fully examine the enormous case file, which contains 36,000 documents.
The Russian’s Dutch legal team had only presented to the court in January.
“The main reason is that the defence only received the case file a short time ago and also that the file is essentially in Dutch,” Judge Steenhuis said.
However, he added the defence team and the prosecution had agreed to wait for Pulatov to examine the evidence and make any preliminary objections to the trial in June.
The main defence objections expected are that either the court or the prosecution, or both, do not have jurisdiction over the case. Judge Steenhuis said given the complicated nature of the trial it could take more than 14 days for the court to deliver a verdict.