SYDNEY, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday welcomed a Dutch court conviction of three men over the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014.
Dutch judges handed down on Thursday life sentences in absentia to two Russian men and a Ukrainian man for their role in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew, including 38 Australians.
“We welcome The Hague District Court finding of three men being guilty of murder over the downing of MH17,” Albanese told a news conference on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok.
“We’ve gone through this legal and court processes and we call upon Russia to hand over for justice the people who are involved in this and who’ve been found to be guilty in absentia.” The Malaysian airliner departed from Amsterdam and was bound for Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine Ukraine on July 17, 2014, as fighting raged between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces.
The ruling came as a relief to victims’ relatives, more than 200 of whom attended the court in The Hague person, wiping away tears as the judgement was read.
Kyiv welcomed the murder convictions handed out by a Dutch court on Thursday to three men for their role in the 2014 shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, but said those who ordered the attack must face trial.
The court in The Hague issued the sentences after saying Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made missile fired from a field in eastern Ukraine and that Russia had overall control of separatist forces at the time.
“An important decision of the court in The Hague. The first sentences for those responsible for shooting down #MH17,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote on Twitter.
“But it is necessary that those who ordered it also end up in the dock because the feeling of impunity leads to new crimes. We have to dispel this illusion. Punishment for all Russian atrocities – both then and now – will be inevitable.”
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Friday said his country supported the decision by a Dutch court to sentence three suspects for their role in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.
The court on Thursday handed down life jail sentences to thee suspects, and ordered them to pay at least 16 million euros ($16.5 million) in compensation to relatives of the victims.
RUSSIA REJECTS VERDICT
Russia rejected what it called the “scandalous” decision by a Dutch court to convict two of its citizens for downing a Malaysian airliner and said the proceedings had not been impartial.
Judges convicted three men of murder for their role in the 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew, and sentenced them to life in prison in absentia.
The three were former Russian intelligence agents Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian separatist leader.
The Dutch court also said Russia had “overall control” of separatist forces in eastern Ukraine at the time the plane was shot down.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the court had been under unprecedented pressure from Dutch politicians, prosecutors and the media to impose a politically motivated outcome.
“The trial in the Netherlands has every chance of becoming one of the most scandalous in the history of legal proceedings,” it said in a statement. Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the downing of the jet.
Separately, a top Russian politician told Tass news agency that Moscow would not be extraditing Girkin and Dubinskiy.
Andrei Klishas, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, told Tass that the court’s decision would not have any legal consequences.
The Russian foreign ministry said prosecutors had ignored all evidence it said indicated that the missile could have been launched by Ukrainian troops from territory controlled by Kyiv.
“We deeply regret that the District Court in The Hague disregarded the principles of impartial justice in favour of the current political situation,” it said.
PHOTO: (FILE) – Part of the wreckage at the main crash site of the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which crashed over the eastern Ukraine region, near Grabovo, some 100 km east of Donetsk, Ukraine, 20 July 2014. EPA-EFE/IGOR KOVALENKO