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Day One of MH17 Hearings: Tight Security in Place, Accusations of 'Show-Trial' From Sceptics

© REUTERS / PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUWPeter Langstraat, lawyer representing victims' families, talks to the media after a Dutch court opened the criminal trial against four suspects in the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw
Peter Langstraat, lawyer representing victims' families, talks to the media after a Dutch court opened the criminal trial against four suspects in the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw - Sputnik International
A court hearing was launched in the Netherlands on Monday, with three Russians and one Ukrainian national being tried in absentia for their alleged involvement in the July 2014 crash of the MH17 Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine.

While Amsterdam is perceived as one of the most liberal places in the world, the Judicial Complex Schiphol in the outskirts of the Dutch city is something totally different. Surrounded by a tall fence with dozens of security cameras, the concrete compound is tucked away between heavily guarded military facilities and the runways of the nearby international airport. It’s the place where Dutch judicial authorities just launched a court trial, which may go on for months, if not years.

​There are strict security measures in place both outside the compound, with Royal Netherlands Marechaussee agents patrolling the premises, and inside the press centre, where several security guards rush to stop reporters who try to film something with their phones: it’s prohibited to shoot video inside the media centre, since, according to the judges, it may affect the witnesses and relatives of MH17 victims.

​Even though the Dutch public, in general, seems to approve the manner in which Netherlands-led Joint Investigation Team collected the evidence, and the direction in which the trial is going, there are also those who oppose the proceedings.

Kees van der Pijl – a Dutch political scientist who is a vocal opponent of the mainstream MH17 narrative, dubbed the hearings “a show-trial”:

“Just think of the absurd security measures that have been taken, just as if two Russian divisions are expected to attack anytime. The reason that [the trial] is unfair, is because there has been a clamour in public opinion to build up towards condemnation: “the four suspects should be found guilty”, and all the newspapers, for instance, are busy detailing on which grounds that can be achieved.”

Van der Pijl also said that this situation is unique because normally all facts have to be gathered first, and the judges consider them while coming up with a verdict, but in the case of MH17, public opinion already condemned the defendants before the trial began.

​Investigative journalists Max van der Werff and Yana Yerlashova, who founded Bonanza Media and are seeking the truth in the case of the ill-fated Malaysian Boeing, traveled to Donbass, interviewed the witnesses, and made several documentaries. The duo have come up with a long list of questions about the JIT investigation and the MH17 trial, which they have published on social media and in their newsletters. Unlike many of their colleagues, not to mention some judicial and law enforcement officials, the two reporters did a lot of fieldwork in Ukraine and were able to collect both physical and digital pieces of evidence, as well as eyewitness accounts.

​Ahead of the trial Bonanza published several leaked documents, which contradict the outcomes of the JIT probe, while also shedding the light on the way the investigation was handled.

​Even though Bonanza and other independent researchers pointed at serious flaws in the official version using reports from court-certified forensic experts, their claims and evidence are being ignored by the Western mainstream media, which often prefers to “shoot the messenger” rather than dealing with the “inconvenient” messages. So the sceptics are being labelled “MH17 truthers”, “conspiracy theorists” and “Kremlin trolls”.  

​During Saturday’s “MH-17 – awaiting the trial” event in the Hague, Bonanza journalists pointed at several possible errors in the course of the JIT investigation, which might have affected its outcome. Firstly, the journalists claimed, based on preliminary findings by the Malaysian court-certified audio analyst Akash Rosen, that the audio recordings of phone conversations between pro-independence fighters accused of downing the MH17 might have been edited. Phone taps are a major part of the evidence used by the MH17 court.

When analyzing the phone taps published by the SBU on the day of the crash (which will not be used in courtroom, but were the first pieces of information that pointed at the guilt of pro-independence militia commanders in the MH17 case) Bonanza also noticed the mention of a landmark coal mine – a place which in reality is too far away from the Boeing crash site, in the neighbouring Lugansk region, where a military jet was shot down on a date different than the day of the MH17 crash. Bonanza also pointed out that an eyewitness whom they personally interviewed in Donetsk region and whose account wasn’t in line with JIT’s main narrative, saw two fighter jets flying beside the Malaysian Boeing, but never had his testimony verified with Dutch investigators seemingly “losing interest” in the man’s words after two phone calls.

The Malaysia Airlines flight Boeing 777-200ER was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and crashed in the armed conflict in the Eastern Ukraine on 17 June of 2014, killing all 298 occupants. Two-thirds of those on board were Dutch nationals. Other countries which lost their citizens were Malaysia, Australia and seven other nations.

The Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team, which includes representatives of Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Malaysia was formed in 2014 with Malaysia’s high-ranking officials later expressing doubts over some JIT findings.

The MH17 court accused Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky, and Oleg Pulatov, as well as Ukrainian, Leonid Kharchenko, for their actions, which, according to JIT, led to the downing of the ill-fated Boeing.

Russia was never part of the investigation, although it provided radar data, BUK missile manufacturer specifications and test results, as well as other technical information, the majority of which, according to the country’s foreign ministry, continues to be ignored by the Dutch.

In May last year Russian diplomats also criticized the Dutch authorities for a lack of transparency, as, according to Moscow, the Hague concealed important information, which may shed light on the circumstances surrounding the MH17 crash.

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