Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday demanded life sentences for four suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, saying they caused “profound and irreversible suffering” to the families of the 298 people killed.
Prosecutors said the four recklessly used a Russian missile to shoot down the airliner, killing all 298 passengers and crew.
Prosecutor Manon Ridderbeks made the request for sentencing on the third day of the presentation of evidence in support of the indictment.
The suspects are being tried in absentia.
“The downing of the MH17 with a Buk missile brutally killed all 298 people on board. Incredibly deep and irreversible suffering has been caused to family members, ”Ridderbeks told the court.
Life sentences are rare in the Netherlands, where the sentence means that the convicted person spends the rest of their life in prison.
But Ridderbeks said the downing of MH17 was necessary due to the extreme nature of the crime and to act as a deterrent.
“It must send an unequivocal international message that aviation deserves the highest possible protection and that serious acts of violence against it will be severely punished,” he said.
Prosecutors accuse Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Igor Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, who were separatist rebels who fought against Ukrainian government forces in 2014, of forming a team that aimed to shoot down Ukrainian planes using a missile system brought in by a Russian army. base.
Prosecutor Thijs Berger told judges Wednesday that it is legally irrelevant that the suspects wanted to shoot down military and not civilian aircraft.
“Legally speaking, they were ordinary citizens, they were not allowed to commit any type of violence,” he said.
The trial is taking place in the Netherlands in a high-security courtroom near Schiphol airport because nearly 200 of those on board were Dutch nationals. The victims came from a total of 16 different nations.
The sentencing demands on Wednesday came amid mounting tensions between Moscow and the West over a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine that has raised invasion fears. Russia has denied plans to attack its neighbor.
Defense attorneys for Pulatov, who is the only suspect represented in court, will make their presentation to the judges in March. Verdicts are not expected until September next year at the earliest.
Prosecutors had spent the previous two days explaining in meticulous detail the accusation and the supporting evidence to the panel of judges.
Prosecutors traced in detail the route they say the Buk missile took to and from the launch site in a farm field near the village of Pervomaiskyi, using witnesses, social media posts, photos and videos, and intercepted phone calls and mobile phone location data.
They also discussed forensic evidence gathered from the remains and bodies of the victims that were recovered from eastern Ukraine and returned to the Netherlands for examination. At the beginning of the trial, the judges visited a hangar at a Dutch military air base where the remains are stored to see the shattered fragments.
Prosecutors concluded that the plane was shot down by a Buk missile belonging to Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade that was driven to the launch site “on the orders and under the direction of the suspects.”
Prosecutors also cited recorded conversations between Dubinski and Kharchenko about the shooting down of what they initially thought was a Ukrainian fighter jet.
Prosecutors argue that Girkin and Dubinskiy were high-ranking separatist rebels, while Pulatov and Kharchenko were his direct reports.
“Together they are responsible for the deployment of the Buk loom used to shoot down Flight MH17,” prosecutors said in a written summary of their arguments.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism