Three Russians and one Ukrainian are charged with 298 counts of murder after they allegedly supplied a missile that prosecutors claim shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, of MH17, over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.
The homicide case is being tried in the Hague District Court in a highly secure judicial complex. However, none of the defendants were present, due to efforts to slow the progression of COVID-19. Only a prosecutor, a single defense lawyer and three judges appeared in person. The press, which had two weeks ago been in a specially built press center, followed developments online via live stream.
Only one of the men, a Russian, has retained counsel. The other defendants are being tried in absentia.
The recent hearing was mostly procedural, although some important issues were decided. For one thing, relatives of the deceased will not be allowed to view all of the case information but will be given summaries by their lawyers. This is to reduce the risk of leaks.
The prosecution has requested that the parties and court move for part of the trial to a Dutch airbase where much of the wreckage of MH17 is being stored. It also asked for more witness interviews and additional information. The three-judge panel put off decisions about those requests until the Russian man’s defense lawyers can be heard in June.
The judges also asked the prosecution whether certain satellite images taken by the U.S. will be unclassified and put into the case file. There is some evidence that the U.S. would allow that, but the prosecution has yet to make a request.
The next hearing is expected to take place on June 8. Depending on the progress of the pandemic, it could return to regular proceedings or continue mostly via live stream.