Court suspends MH17 case until April 15
The Dutch court in the case of the downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 announced decisions on the next requests of the defense of accused Russian Oleg Pulatov and announced that the regular hearing would start on April 15.
"The court suspends examination in court until April 15, 2021, 10:00. It also suspends investigation in the cases of accused [Igor] Girkin, [Serhiy] Dubinsky and [Leonid] Kharchenko until the same date," presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said.
The judge also read out the decisions made on the previously announced motions of the defense of Pulatov, the only one of the four accused to be represented by lawyers.
The court said that the defense had asked for an expert from by Russia's Almaz-Antey arms industry company Buk system to visit and examine the wreckage of the downed MH17. "There was also a request to investigate all the available wreckage and photos of those wreckage that were not recovered. The court believes that this is not necessary. Almaz-Antey said in detail its findings regarding the weapon that was used, it also reacted to the report the Netherlands Research Institute and the Royal Military Academy. The report showed that there was not enough information, in comparison with other studies," the judge said.
He also said that the court wants to leave open the possibility for the investigating judge to provide an opportunity for experts to visit the reconstruction to properly understand the report.
Regarding the visit to the reconstruction of the downed MH17, Steenhuis said that by his decision of July 3, 2020, he had already instructed the prosecutor to facilitate such a visit to Hilzeree. "It was also said that during the visit, the defense can be with an expert. In December 2020, the defense asked Mr. Bidermann for such assistance, and he agreed, stating that he was ready to do this. He and Mr. Kern will help the defense," he said.
In this regard, the presiding judge said that such a decision had been made a long time ago, but the defense had only recently begun to take appropriate action. "On February 1, the defense spoke about visiting the reconstruction with Bidermann and examining the wreckage that is not part of the reconstruction, but no further requests have been made. Therefore, the court should not make any decisions regarding this," Steenhuis said.
In addition, the court rejected the defense's motion to provide a photo of all the wreckage of the plane, including those that were not transported to the Netherlands and remained in Ukraine. "The court considers that in July the prosecutor provided the defense with a database of hundreds of photographs of all the wreckage identified. The photos taken at the crash site and in which the victims were captured were not provided, as the prosecutor does not want these photos to be disseminated," the judge said.
At the same time, he instructed the investigation to check if there are more photos that can be provided to Pulatov's defense.
The court also ruled on a linguistic examination of the intercepted telephone conversations. "As for the telephone conversations, which Pulatov does not remember, the court orders that Pulatov, 14 days from today – at the latest on February 22 – inform the investigating judge in which of the conversations he took part, if possible [established] five such conversations [...] This can then be used for linguistic research, comparative voice analysis," he said.
Steenhuis also highlighted the decision for a special inspection during a visit to the reconstruction of the downed plane. "The court considers that such a decision can be made only after, based on the expert interviews with the investigating judge, the court gets a clear understanding of the difference in opinions on the possible launch site. Only if this is clear, the court can decide on a special examination during inspection," the judge said.
In this regard, the court considers it necessary to prepare not only the visit to the reconstruction, but also "the left wing, the left motor, the stabilizer, the vertical part and the right horizontal tail." "These parts, as it turns out, play a role in the debate about a possible launch site between the aerospace center in the Netherlands and the Royal Military Academy on the one hand, and Almaz-Antey on the other. The court instructs the prosecutor's office, if such a visit is decided, to start organizing in advance now and inform the court before the next hearing. The proposed date for such a visit is possible between May 17 and May 28," Steenhuis said.
The court did not sustain the request of Pulatov's defense about the radar database. "This is a request that the defense repeats again even after it was previously rejected by the court [...] The court does not consider this a useful task: and the investigation clearly explained that the prosecutor's office several times asked the Ukrainian authorities to transfer all data regarding other radar systems, and they received the answer was that all the information was transmitted. Therefore, this request was rejected," the presiding judge said.