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by John Helmer, Moscow 

Dutch and Russian state officials combined last week to turn the trial of the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 into a farce.

Two Rotterdam police defenders, Sabine ten Doesschate and Boudewijn van Eijck, engaged by a Russian foundation to represent Lieutenant-Colonel Oleg Pulatov, one of the four accused,  pretended to investigate evidence the prosecutors have rejected, and the presiding judge, Hendrik Steenhuis, together with an investigating magistrate whose name is kept secret, have already dismissed.  

Pulatov and Colonel Sergei Dubinsky, the second of the four accused by the Dutch of murder in the shooting-down of the aircraft and deaths of 298 people on board on July 17, 2014, pretended to be naïve in asking to be believed; provided videotapes of themselves offering to prove their innocence; and inviting the prosecution and Steenhuis to dismiss their truthfulness.  The prosecutors will make their presentation this week. The judge has announced he will rule on the defence requests on November 25.

The Dutch prosecution service pretended to report the three days of proceedings with the summary:  “the defence is of the opinion that additional investigation is required to find out more about the reliability and value of the evidence put forward by the PPS [Public Prosecution Service] and about evidence that was not put forward by the PPS but could nevertheless be important”.

The trial is broadcast live in Dutch with simultaneous translation into English. Spokesmen for the prosecution press service said they have no idea how the English voiceover record of each day’s hearing could be purchased, or if it was available at all.

The Russian state media organisation RT pretended to have had “technical capacity” difficulty reproducing the first day’s hearing in the YouTube format it has been broadcasting on the internet since the trial began on March 9. RT management then admitted they have ceased providing this archive record unless a one-time or subscription payment is made. “Ruptly is a B2B agency providing services and materials to the international media across the globe”, said the Moscow manager for RT’s Ruptly subsidiary. “The material in question with translation in English is available for Ruptly subscribers.”

No mainstream western media have paid. They also refused to report the defence presentations as news.

The Dutch prosecution has published what its press service calls a daily summary of the 5-hour proceedings. The official November 3 summary was not a summary at all.   “Today the defence had the floor and presented a video, in which their client testified. The defence subsequently started to elaborate on their investigation requests. On Wednesday 4 November 2020 the defence will continue this presentation. As soon as all investigation requests from the defence have been stated, a summary will post on this website.”

Source: https://www.courtmh17.com/

The official Dutch summary for November 4 was the same.   “Today counsel for the defence took the floor again to elaborate on their investigation requests. They are expected to complete this presentation on Thursday 5 November. As soon as all investigation requests from the defence have been stated, a summary will post on this website.”

The November 5 summary runs for nine paragraphs. About Pulatov’s video interview, the Dutch state summary was: “counsel showed a video in which their client stated that he was not involved in the crash of Flight MH17 and did not see how it happened.”

RT did not report from the MH trial during last week. The network also ignored the videotaped appearances of Pulatov and Dubinsky.

Pulatov’s interview, with English translation, can be followed here.  It was recorded on February 16, 2020. 

This 51-minute videotape also includes an 11-minute interview of Pulatov by his Russian lawyer, Yelena Kutyina, recorded on October 22, 2020, in Russian and Dutch; no English. The October excerpt runs between Minute 1 to 13, when the February interview resumes.  

Pulatov’s second interview was also broadcast with English translation in a 2-minute excerpt by Ruptly: “ ‘No, I haven't seen a Buk missile so I can't comment on it. At least there were no Buk in my subservient departments…the fact that the Donbass militia allegedly had a Buk missile system, I found out from news releases in July 19, 2014’…. Sign Up to get full script access.”

On October 30, the week before resumption of the proceedings in court, the Bonanza Media organisation of Yana Yerlashova released its 9-minute interview with Dubinsky.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/
No Russian, Dutch or English language medium has reported Dubinsky’s claim to have been offered €50,000 by a reporter (“I didn’t get the name”) from a Dutch state television channel last March; or his offer to be interviewed with polygraph by Dutch prosecutors on condition he is given the questions in advance.  

Tass, a rival to the RT organisation for state media budget funds, reported in brief from each day of last week’s hearings; the news agency issued several more of its bulletins in Russian than it translated into English.  Tass also quoted directly from the Pulatov interview.   “ ‘Yes, I am ready to answer all questions of the court, I have nothing to hide,’ he said. ‘I take part in this court [hearing] not in order to exonerate myself, but to help find the perpetrators, so that they receive the deserved punishment, and the relatives of the victims finally receive closure on this process.’” He was volunteering his appearance, Pulatov claimed, without contacting Russian officials before his appearance was filmed. “First, I didn’t have time, and second, this is outside of my competence.”

Tass ignored the Dubinsky interview.

Sputnik, another rival to RT, broadcast this recording of the November 5 court session on Facebook. Sputnik has not published archive recordings of the November 3 and 4 hearings. It has not reported Dubinsky’s remarks.

The Hague District Court bench of judges and alternate judges, with the presider Steenhuis third from left, at the opening of the November 5 hearing. Source: https://m.facebook.com/ Steenhuis began by reading his ruling that in response to the videotape interview with Pulatov broadcast earlier in court, he implied he would disregard its substance until and unless the court could question Pulatov directly. “The specific question then is, how defence thinks the court could interview the defendant in practice” (Min 1:44).

The internet platform, Human Rights Investigations (HRI) has produced a Twitter stream in English. This is the first time HRI has reported on the Dutch trial. The organisation began its coverage of the MH17 case on July 21, 2014; continued until September 9, 2014;  then stopped for six years – until last week. Follow the HRI stream here for November 4 here  and here; and for November 5.

The website says: “HRI receives no funding from organisations, governments, trusts or foundations, though [it] may seek funding to expand in the future – which we will disclose here… Although HRI has charitable purposes (human rights) income does not currently meet the threshold for registration as a charity in the UK.” The spelling is English, but the expression reveals a non-English source.  

The HRI editorialised that the defence lawyers ten Doesschate and van Eijck had delivered “impressive performances”. The thread lists a series of defence challenges to the credibility of radar and satellite imagery, prosecution eyewitnesses, official Dutch expert reports, soil sampling, prototype missile tests, prosecution telephone tape recordings and their interpretation from Russian. Expressed as new requests for investigation, the itemisation repeats argument already made in court which Judge Steenhuis has rejected in earlier rulings. HRI appears not to be aware of them.

In parallel, Max van der Werff has published a Twitter stream summary of the defence presentations in Dutch.   Analysis by van der Werff is also reported in The Hague Times.

At no point in three days of their presentations did ten Doesschate and van Eijck announce that Dutch law disallows the admissibility of the crucial evidence presented to date; and that on the Dutch legal standards for prosecution of murder, there is no case to answer. Nor did the two lawyers declare there was no proof of  Pulatov’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. They did not tell the court that it is not up to Pulatov or his lawyers to prove his innocence  

For the book making the case that
the defence has already failed, click to read.

In two new requests the defence asked Steenhuis to rule to accept evidence from two Russian sources who have not been proposed for evidence before. One, Lieutenant-Colonel Igor Girkin, is the third Russian of the four accused; the fourth is a Ukrainian, Leonid Kharchenko. Girkin  has already said he does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Dutch court and will not cooperate by answering its questions. The second is a Russian Army unit which has been targeted by the NATO propaganda agency Bellingcat as the operating crew of the Buk missile Bellingcat claims to have been fired at MH17.  

According to the HRI summary:

Source: https://threadreaderapp.com

On July 3 Steenhuis ruled to reject the defence request to take testimony on the alleged Buk missile from Major-General Igor Konashenkov.  Whether the Dutch lawyers intend to set the judge up to make a similar record of refusal, or they aim to trap the Russians into corroborating the  allegations against them, international legal experts say the new requests make no trial sense.

Quoted in the book are international war crimes lawyers and other international legal experts who have concluded the prosecution’s evidence and the judge’s rulings are already so prejudicial, a fair trial is impossible and the conviction of Pulatov and the Russian military command is inevitable. The conclusion of the book is that this is what the Russian lawyers defending Pulatov should be saying now.

No Russian lawyer in trial practice, professor of law, or the principal lawyer behind the Pulatov defence, Judge Anatoly Kovler, has agreed to speak on the record to date.

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