AMSTERDAM, April 20 — The District Court of The Hague does not plan to pronounce sentences on the defendants in the MH17 crash case before the end of the year, as much work remains to be done, Sputnik quoted judge Maria Kneif as saying in an interview with RIA Novosti.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down on July 17, 2014, in eastern Ukraine on its way to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam. All 298 people aboard died. In 2019, the Dutch-led team of investigators released the names of the four suspects: Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko.
“Several blocks (of hearings) are still scheduled for this year. And some of these blocks extend to 2022 … So no sentences are expected to be pronounced this year by the court. At this point all I can tell you is that it will not be this year. When it will be – we have to wait and see, because a lot of work still remains, much needs to happen,” Kneif said.
According to the judge, the trial on the merits is scheduled to start on June 7. In September, relatives of the suspects will presumably have an opportunity to exercise their right to address the court.
Commenting on whether it is already possible to proceed to the review of the merits or additional investigation is necessary, the judge said that the court hearing on the merits of the MH17 crash case could start before the completion of the entire investigation.
“It is possible that trial on the merits could start before all of the investigations has concluded but of course, the investigation has to be final and conclusive before the court takes decisions,” Kneif said.
The Malaysian Boeing bound to Kuala Lumpur crashed in July 2014 while flying over a conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. An international group of investigators claims that the plane was downed by a Buk missile belonging to the Russian armed forces. Moscow, in turn, has repeatedly denied the allegations. Though Russia offered help in the investigation, it was denied access to the probe.
The trial of four suspects began last March in the Netherlands, but had to be adjourned over the Covid-19 pandemic.