Families Of MH17 Plane Downing Brace For Critical Trial Phase

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HRABOVE, UKRAINE: Families of the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over rebel-held eastern Ukraine are braced for possibly painful details to emerge when a critical phase of the murder trial begins next week examining what and who was responsible for the disaster.

MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit with a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels during fighting with Ukrainian government troops, international investigators concluded. All 298 people on board were killed, two thirds of them Dutch nationals.

After nearly a year of preparations and largely procedural hearings the Dutch judges overseeing the case will summarise the key evidence and highlight witness testimony.

For the families of MH17 victims it will be of utmost importance to hear judges detail for the first time preliminary findings on exactly how their loved ones died.

“On the one hand we want to know exactly what happened, why it happened and who was responsible, but the price you pay for that is that there is also information released that could be shocking,” Piet Ploeg, a spokesman for the relatives who lost his brother, sister-in-law and nephew, told Reuters.

“Eventually that should lead to getting justice and justice includes at least that we have an independent court rule on who was responsible,” Ploeg said.

A team of international investigators in May 2018 concluded that the missile launcher which shot down the aircraft belonged to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade. The Dutch government holds Moscow responsible, but Russia denies any involvement.

After an investigation lasting nearly six years, three Russian nationals and a Ukrainian man went on trial in March 2020. According to prosecutors they all held leading positions in pro-Russian militias operating in Ukraine. The men are still at large and three are being tried in absentia.

It is not yet clear when the court will give a judgement. Even if the suspects are convicted they are unlikely to serve prison time because Russia is not cooperating with the court.

-REUTERS

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