Dutch judges on Thursday convicted three men of murder for their role in the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine in 2014, sentencing them to life in prison and acquitting a fourth man.
Flight MH17 crashed over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing 298 passengers and crew.
“Only the maximum penalty is appropriate to hold suspects accountable for what they did, which caused so much suffering to so many victims and their relatives,” said Chief Justice Hendrik Stenhaus, reading a summary of your verdict.
Relatives of the victims remained in tears in courtroom while Stenhouse read the verdict.
The three men convicted are two former KGB agents, Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinsky, and Ukrainian separatist leader Leonid Kharchenko.
A fourth defendant, Russian Oleg Bulatov, was acquitted of all charges against him.
Stenhouse said the defendants enjoy no immunity from prosecution in as they are not members of the Russian Armed Forces.
Stenhouse added: “There is no reasonable explanation,” except that the plane was shot down by a BUK missile system.
For their part, the victims’ representatives said the verdict was a milestone in the case, even though the suspects are still in leak. It is believed that they are all in Russia, which does not extradite them.
Moscow denies any involvement or responsibility in the downing of the plane.
Russia today denounced a “political” ruling in the plane crash in Malaysia. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “the progress and outcome of the judicial process indicate that (the decision) is based on a political issue”, considering that the “trial in the Netherlands” is almost “one of the most scandalous (trials) in the history of judicial processes”.
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