News ‘We would rather have much more time’: Defence lawyer calls for MH17 trial adjournment

‘We would rather have much more time’: Defence lawyer calls for MH17 trial adjournment

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Lawyers for a Russian man accused of murdering 298 people in the downing of MH17 have applied for the Dutch trial to be adjourned.

Defence lawyer Sabine ten Doesschate asked the District Court of The Hague on Monday to postpone proceedings about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014 over eastern Ukraine.

Her client Oleg Pulatov and three others – Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinsky and Leonid Kharchenko – allegedly co-ordinated the BUK-Telar missile launcher used to down the passenger plane killing all passengers and crew  on board, including 38 people who called Australia home.

The trial started on March 10, when Dutch prosecutors argued that although the men did not push the button to fire the missile that destroyed the passenger jet, they played a co-ordinating role in the disaster.

Ms Ten Doesschate says the defence team has not had enough time to review the case file and to counsel its client due to coronavirus travel restrictions in the Netherlands and Russia.

“We would rather have much more time and opportunity to prepare and we would like put the proceedings on hold in the meantime and definitely during the corona limitations as has happened in many other cases,” she told the court.

“And to continue afterwards after we have had the opportunity to read everything and after we have discussed with our client his vision and the decision to begin because it’s not our defence, it’s his defence.”

Ms Ten Doesschate says the case file is more than 40,000 pages and it’s an “illusion” to think that two people, even with the support of associates, could analyse it in a few months.

A total 38 Australians lost their lives when Flight MH17 went down in Ukraine.
The deliberate shooting down of MH17 shocked the world in 2014. Photo: Getty

She says an average university student can study five to 10 pages of scientific literature a day and if her team had worked at that speed they would have analysed less than 10 per cent of the case file.

“If we would have done nothing else over the past few months, nothing else other than read the case file then now we would have read 3000 pages per person,” Ms ten Doesschate told the court.

“Obviously one can expect more from us than a university student but not more than ten-fold this amount and that’s what it means, studying a case of 40,000 pages, that’s what that means.”

The defence lawyer also said the global coronavirus travel restrictions had hindered their ability to counsel their client Pulatov, who lives in Russia and doesn’t speak Dutch or English.

Ms Ten Doesschate said the defendant “hardly knows his counsel” and regular hears through Russian media that the Netherlands was involved with “spreading disinformation”.

“A relationship of trust needs to grow and we intended to invest in that … by travelling to Russia about two weeks there in order to discuss the case file with him,” she told the court.

“Without such investments in time, it’s in fact impossible to build such a relationship of trust.”