Dozens of relatives of the 298 victims of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 that was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014, are due to start testifying on Monday at the trial of the murder of the four fugitives suspected of the attack.
The plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by what international investigators and prosecutors have called a Russian surface-to-air missile.
Three Russian nationals and one Ukrainian, all suspected of having played key roles in the separatist forces, are on trial for murder. Moscow has refused to extradite those in Russia and has denied responsibility for the attack. The Dutch government held Moscow responsible.
The plane crashed in a clearing in an area held by pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian forces.
The court has scheduled three weeks to hear relatives of the victims speak and will also examine about a hundred written statements given by other family members.
Ria van der Steen will be the first of 90 family members from eight countries to be allowed to speak before judges and defense attorneys about the impact the accident has had on their lives.
After years of gathering evidence, an international team of investigators concluded in May 2018 that the launcher used to fire the missile belonged to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Air Strike Brigade.
The fugitive suspects have been on trial for a year and a half. Only one sent a team of lawyers to represent him so the case is not considered entirely a trial in absentia under Dutch law.
The trial enters a critical stage in June when prosecutors begin to present evidence and will begin calling witnesses. [uh/ab]