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MH17 suspect asks to address court in person as he denies involvement

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By Euronews  with AP
Sabine ten Doesschate, left, and Boudewijn van Eijck, lawyers of Oleg Pulatov, at the MH17 trial
Sabine ten Doesschate, left, and Boudewijn van Eijck, lawyers of Oleg Pulatov, at the MH17 trial   -   Copyright  AP Photo

A suspect in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) has asked to be allowed to give his version of events in court, denying any involvement as the trial resumed in the Netherlands.

Oleg Pulatov is one of four suspects in the case, charged with being behind the shooting down of the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight on July 17, 2014.

All 298 passengers and crew died as a result of the crash in Ukraine, which prosecutors say was caused by a Buk missile fired from territory in part of Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels.

They alleged the missile was transported into Ukraine from a Russian base and the launcher was sent back after the plane was shot down.

Trial in absentia

Three Russians - Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Pulatov - as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, are all being tried in absentia in the high-security courtroom of the Schiphol Judicial Complex, near Amsterdam.

Pulatov - the only defendant represented by lawyers at the trail - asked through his lawyer Sabine ten Doesschate to be permitted to speak in person at the trial.

“Our client has told us that he had nothing to do with ordering, guarding, concealing and transporting a Buk missile to Pervomaisk, instructing its crew, firing or ordering the firing a Buk missile and/or the downing of MH17,” ten Doesschate told the court.

“Oleg Pulatov can talk about this. If it were up to him, he would rather do that today than tomorrow, here at the hearing.

“We strongly advised him against that,” she added, as he would be likely to be arrested if he travelled to the Netherlands, due to an active international arrest warrant.

The defence is to ask for further investigations into the cause of the crash, and ten Doesschate told the judges the requests will be submitted in writing and they can be discussed when the trial next resumes in November.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said he was "unpleasantly surprised" by the delay — the defence investigation requests had been expected to be discussed at Monday's hearing.

He adjourned the hearing to discuss the next steps with his fellow judges.

The trial, still at a preliminary stage, is expected to continue well into 2021, and will next resume on 3 November.