Defence lawyers have astonishingly suggested in a Dutch court that the MH17 investigation may have been “based on false information”.
Lawyer Sabine ten Doesschate made the provocative claim in the District Court of the Hague on Tuesday as she called for further investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
Ms ten Doesschate is representing Russian Oleg Pulatov, who’s accused along with two other Russians and a Ukrainian of co-ordinating a Buk-TELAR missile launcher used to shoot down the plane, killing all 298 aboard, including 38 who called Australia home.
The defence lawyer said the prosecution’s alleged missile launch site near the village of Pervomaiskyi was not within the zones suggested by Russian arms maker Almaz-Antey and the Belgian Military Academy.
“We must conclude that the JIT’s calculations may be based on false information and using a method without factual underpinnings,” Ten Doesschate said, referring to the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
“That can mean that (other) potential launch sites have been rejected because they fell outside the possible launch area as calculated.”
Earlier, she said that Ukraine had accidentally shot down a passenger plane with a missile before: Siberian Airlines Flight 1812 over the Black Sea in October 2001.
Ms ten Doesschate questioned the 36-kilometre range for Buk missiles suggested by the prosecution, saying there’s evidence the range may be up to 55 kilometres.
The defence also called for further investigation of documents provided by Russia to support their claims that Ukraine owned the Buk missile fired at MH17.
The prosecution earlier this month said the documents showed clear signs of manipulation, which made them inadmissible as evidence.
“We think that the prosecution’s view that the Russian documents may be false actually does call for further investigation,” Ms ten Doesschate said.
— CourtMH17 (@CourtMH17) June 23, 2020
Fellow defence counsel Boudewijn van Eijck then took a completely different tack from Ms ten Doesschate’s missile launch theory.
He began talking about Ukraine’s airspace being open over the conflict zone on the day MH17 was shot down.
Mr Van Eijck said that fact may support the theory that a Ukrainian fighter jet shot down MH17 or that their warplanes were using passenger jets as “human shields”, which would be a mitigating factor.
“In other words as self-defence or some other defence with respect to exclusion of culpability, would be a possibility,” he said.
“This is also important with respect to a defence focused on a possible sentence.
“So all this theory, we have to look ahead, we’re still in an investigation phase.”