Suspect in downing of flight MH17 denies any involvement

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – One of four suspects on trial for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has denied any involvement with firing or supplying the missile allegedly used in its destruction, a lawyer said in court on Monday.

MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels during fighting in eastern Ukraine, international investigators say. All 298 people on board were killed.

After an investigation lasting nearly six years, four defendants went on trial in March. The men are all still at large and three are being tried in absentia.

Judge Hendrik Steenhuis attends the hearing in trial of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the high-security courtroom of the Schiphol Judicial Complex, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands, September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool
Sabine ten Doesschate and Boudewijn van Eijck, lawyers of Oleg Pulatov attend the hearing in trial of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the high-security courtroom of the Schiphol Judicial Complex, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands, September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool

One defendant, Oleg Pulatov, has instructed a lawyer to defend him. Under Dutch law, Pulatov’s trial is not considered to take place in absentia because he has chosen to be represented by counsel.

“He did not contribute and he was not involved. What’s more, he did not and does not have any knowledge of how and why MH17 was downed,” Pulatov’s lawyer, Sabine ten Doesschate, told the Hague District Court sitting in a high-security courtroom near Schiphol airport.

She added that Pulatov also doubts the prosecution’s scenario that MH17 was hit with a Russian-made BUK missile.

MH17 victims relative Anton Kotte and Piet Ploeg, the head of the MH17 Disaster Foundation arrive to attend the hearing in trial of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the high-security courtroom of the Schiphol Judicial Complex, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands, September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

“Our client does not know what happened. What he does know is that he did not see any BUK rocket,” Ten Doesschate said.

She added that her client would be willing to testify in the case but that agreement had to be reached about how that would be possible. Pulatov, who lives in Russia, is the subject of an international arrest warrant.

Judge Hendrik Steenhuis attends the hearing in trial of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the high-security courtroom of the Schiphol Judicial Complex, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands, September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool
Lawyer Peter Langstraat attends the hearing in trial of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in the high-security courtroom of the Schiphol Judicial Complex, in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands, September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool

Monday’s hearing is still procedural and a date for the start of the case on its merits has not been set.

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