Asia Malaysia Dutch judges take virus precautions during MH17 trial

Dutch judges take virus precautions during MH17 trial

The hearing at a high-security courtroom just outside Amsterdam's Schiphol airport resumed with a seat space between each of the three judges, a single prosecutor and a single lawyer representing some victims.

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Dutch judges sat far apart from each other in a near empty courtroom due to coronavirus measures on Monday as the trial resumed of four men over the downing of flight MH17.

The trial that began two weeks ago over the 2014 shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane above eastern Ukraine was continuing behind closed doors due to special regulations aimed at curbing the virus.

The hearing at a high-security courtroom just outside Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport resumed with a seat space between each of the three judges, a single prosecutor and a single lawyer representing some victims.

“These measures were taken because of the coronavirus,” presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said, adding that they had to proceed with the hearing otherwise it would have “implications” for the whole case.

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Unlike the high-profile opening of the trial of four suspects over the deaths of the 298 passengers on board the plane, no relatives of victims, press or any other onlookers were allowed.

Since last year, the four suspects — Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Ukrainian national Leonid Kharchenko — have refused repeated orders to attend the trial.

The judges asked prosecutors whether there were US satellite images allegedly showing the shooting down of the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and if they would be declassified.

International investigators say the BUK anti-aircraft missile was fired from rebel territory and was supplied by Russia. Russia has long denied any involvement.

The judge also asked prosecutors to explain further why they wanted to view parts of the wreckage, held at a Dutch air force base, and said the team representing Pulatov — the only suspect with defence lawyers — needed more time.

He then postponed the hearing until June 8.

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