by John Helmer, Moscow
The foundation stone of the Dutch prosecution of the Russian state, three Russian soldiers and a Ukrainian from Donbass for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 is the US satellite imagery of the missile launch, trajectory, and detonation. The US Government publicly laid this foundation within hours of the incident, on July 17, 2014, following the destruction of the 298 people on board.
If the satellite images are not presented in the trial, which began hearings again this week, the prosecution case fails, either because the US refuses to declassify and release the images, or because they don’t exist. If it can be proved that the US has lied about the satellite evidence, and that Dutch prosecutors are repeating this lie in court, then the defence will have the foundation for summary dismissal of the charges.
On March 23, the presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis issued an order for the prosecution to produce in court the US satellite images. This week, on June 8, Steenhuis announced the prosecution had responded with a memorandum prepared by another Dutch prosecutor interpreting the satellite images but without revealing them. “The American authorities informed us that they cannot provide any additional information regarding the launch of the missile… and the court understands from this that no further information is to be added to the file as a result.”
The judge did not say this is a violation of his disclosure order. The defence lawyers have not announced the evidence is hearsay, unverifiable, and inadmissible in a court of law. Neither the defence lawyers nor Steenhuis himself have charged the prosecution with contempt of court. The prosecution lawyers, who are continuing this week with an outline of their case, are preparing to repeat the US lie.
The US satellite images allegedly proving that a BUK missile brought down MH17 have existed for twenty-three days – between July 20 and August 12, 2014. They were the dates of two public statements by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry, claiming : “we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”
Since Kerry’s remarks, the satellite images have ceased to exist. Since then too, for almost six years, no US Government official has claimed in public, nor told Dutch police, prosecutors, or military intelligence officials in secret, that the images can be viewed with the naked eye.
Steenhuis confirmed this on Monday. “A request was sent to the American authorities in 2014,” he announced, reading from a script. Follow the proceedings here ; the judge’s ruling on the satellite evidence is between Minute 34:07 and 35:02.
Left: Judge Hendrik Steenhuis ruling on the non-disclosure of US satellite evidence; Steenhuis was a state tax collector before he became a judge of The Hague District Court . Right: Ward Ferdinandusse, listening to the judge’s ruling on the US satellite evidence; Ferdinandusse was a police detective before switching to the prosecutor’s office.
In response to the Dutch request to the US for the evidence in 2014, Steenhuis said, “a memorandum was received from them. A Dutch anti-terrorism prosecutor was given the opportunity to check whether the memorandum was correct. For that reason the classified information was made available to him in a confidential manner. And the public prosecutor came to the conclusion that the memorandum is supported by the other sources he consulted. They also indicated that his statement has been put into the file with a second addition. The American authorities informed us that they cannot provide any additional information regarding the launch of the missile. That was stated in the memorandum that has already been made available to the anti-terrorism prosecutor in a confidential manner. That was the reply from the prosecution regarding the court’s question, and the court understands from this that no further information is to be added to the file as a result.”
Steenhuis’s ruling is intentionally vague and ambiguous. He provided no date for the request in 2014; no name of the Dutch official who was the go-between with the Americans; the date of the classified US memorandum; the date when that document and the Dutch prosecutor’s accompanying report were entered in the prosecution file; the author and date of the “second addition”. Steenhuis implied that he has now accepted the prosecution’s response as complying with his disclosure order.
Left: Steenhuis’s anonymous reference to the go-between appears to be to Simon Minks, the senior Dutch prosecutor in charge of counter-terrorism. A courtroom lawyer before becoming a state prosecutor, Minks has no technical or military intelligence expertise. There are no details of his education or activities in the US in his authorized biography, which reports he has prosecuted the Tamil Tigers, Saddam Hussein’s suppliers, and Somali pirates. Centre: Dr Marco Langbroek, the expert whose evidence on the alleged US satellite images Steenhuis referred to in his disclosure order. Langbroek publishes a regular satellite tracking report of observations made at Leiden. His research has been funded by the University of Leiden and the Dutch Air Force. Right: Major-General Onno Eichelsheim, an Air Force helicopter pilot, who became head of MIVD in April 2016. Last year, Eichelsheim announced that his counterparts in Russian military intelligence were "active here in the Netherlands ... where a lot of international organizations are (based)”.
On March 23, Steenhuis had been explicit. Referring to testimony by Marco Langbroek, a Dutch satellite imagery expert and consultant to the Dutch Air Force, speaking to a committee of the Dutch parliament on January 22, 2016, Steenhuis said he understood Langbroek to believe “that the United States has access to classified satellite images allegedly showing the missile being fired, and these have been shared with Dutch intelligence services. This has been made in a statement by Mr Langbroek who is a satellite expert. Further, it is stated in the [parliamentary committee] documents that the United States has no objection to declassifying this information.”
“The question is whether this is correct and if so, whether the Public Prosecution is considering adding this information to the record through the MIVD or by declassification.” MIVD (Militaire Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst) is the acronym for Dutch military intelligence. , The judge was ordering the prosecution to bring to court the US satellite images following declassification, or the record of them from the MIVD.
For the full story of the US allegations about the satellite images, and Washington’s refusal to release them in secret to the Dutch, read this .
For the court disclosure order of March 23, 2020, read this .
By concealing the dates and names, Monday’s new ruling by Steenhuis covers up for the Dutch prosecutors that between December 2015 and January 2016, meeting behind closed doors, they agreed “we haven’t received anything [of the satellite images] from them.” That was the acknowledgement by the insiders of the disclosure request they had sent to Washington in 2014. The insiders also told each other at a meeting at the Dutch National Police Central Crime Unit at Driebergen on February 12, 2016: “We should receive the official report from Dutch Military [Intelligence] on U.S. data by mid-March .”
The data were never handed over. This has been confirmed in secret reports sent from MIVD to the prosecutors on September 21, 2016; they were signed by the MIVD head, Major-General Onno Eichelsheim. The Eichelsheim documents were published several weeks ago, and can be read here . Eichelsheim went further. Not only had MIVD been shown no US satellite images of the shootdown, there was also no NATO electronic, radar or satellite evidence to corroborate the American claims of a missile attack on MH17. The authenticity of the Eichelsheim reports have not been challenged by the Dutch prosecutors; instead, they have accused the Russian secret services of hacking the Dutch prosecution files.
By concealing the date of the Minks report on the US satellite images and hiding its author, Steenhuis has joined the prosecutors to conceal that MIVD had concluded there were no US satellite images. That was Eichelsheim’s conclusion two years after the shootdown; three and half years before Steenhuis ordered the disclosure of the images and the MIVD evidence.
The judge’s new ruling on the satellite evidence is a lie by omission. Drafted, edited, reviewed, retyped, authorized, recited, it has been weeks in preparation.