Schiphol, Netherlands, Nov 17 (EFE).- A Dutch court sentenced three men to life in prison on Thursday after they were found guilty of the murder of 298 people on board a Malaysia Airlines flight which was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
Russian nationals Igor “Strelkov” Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, hit MH17 with a “BUK missile from a field”, presiding judge, Hendrik Steenhuis, said.
None of the three defendants are in custody, and none attended the trial.
The two Russians were found to have had “high-level and coordinating roles in the operation” that led to the downing of MH17, while Kharchenko was “directly involved”. All three are now liable for compensation to be paid to the victims’ families for the damages caused.
While the court was unable to prove who or which authority had ordered the missile to be launched at the plane, it warned that a BUK cannot be fired “by mistake”.
The court dismissed the defense’s theory that the accused thought that the target was a military aircraft rather than a commercial passenger plane, as they did not enjoy the immunity granted to war combatants because Russia had not admitted that its forces were operating in the area and the defendants denied that they were members of the Russian army.
The court also ruled out the possibility the plane had crashed in an accident, and found that Russia was involved in the “armed action” in the Moscow-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).
Former intelligence colonel Girkin, 51, was in charge of the defense portfolio in the area where pro-Russian rebels were active and had direct contact with Moscow, and the court found that he was in command of the battlefield on the day the plane was downed, and kept the Kremlin informed.
Girkin worked with Dubinsky, 60, who was head of intelligence in the same region, maintained regular contact with Russia, and the BUK was transported to the field and returned to Russian territory under his authority. He played a “guiding” role, but left the tasks to his subordinates, the court concluded.
Kharchenko, 50, the only Ukrainian, was commander of a pro-Russian rebel fighting group in the area, and was under Dubinsky’s orders at the time of the shooting. He escorted and supervised the missile launcher, and his role was “instrumental”, making him a co-perpetrator of the charges. EFE