Four men will go on trial in the Netherlands on Monday, in the first criminal case over the murder of 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine in 2014.
Of the four, Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov are Russian, while Leonid Kharchenko is from eastern Ukraine, said a BBC report. While Gerkin is a former colonel in Russia's FSB intelligence service, both Dubinsky and Pulatov were previously employed by Russia's GRU military intelligence agency, which has been linked to cyber-plots as well as the deadly nerve agent attack on Salisbury in England.
Most complex criminal case in Dutch history
Kharchenko, who has no military background, had led a combat unit as a commander in Eastern Ukraine, according to prosecutors. Neither country extradites its citizens but one of the Russians will have a defence team in the courtroom and the court said that it has also prepared to accept testimony from them by video link. This trial is the culmination of the most complex criminal investigation in Dutch history, according to the BBC report.
Two-thirds of the victims were Dutch; the Netherlands took the lead in the investigation and the trial will be held within the Dutch legal system. Two weeks have been allocated for the start, which will cover mostly procedural aspects and establish whether indeed the trials will be conducted in absentia, without the accused.
Victims' relatives will also have a chance to tell the court how their lives have been affected and what they see as the most appropriate punishment. But, little was known about who will testify before the court's three judges.
Identity of witnesses to remain secret
Unconfirmed Dutch reports have said there are 13 witnesses in the case whose identities will remain secret, but the judges may decide that anyone who has already given evidence to prosecutors may not need to appear in person.
The aircraft, which was travelLing between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur, was shot down on July 17, 2014, by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired from an area in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia militias, according to the official investigation.
Russia has vehemently denied the inquiry commission's two main arguments: that the missile was launched from an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists and that it had been transported from Russia, where it may have been sent back to after the catastrophe.