Dutch court convicts three men, acquits one for MH17 downing over Ukraine

MH17 was a passenger flight shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

The reconstructed wreckage of the MH17 airplane is seen after the presentation of the final report into the crash of July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, in Gilze Rijen, the Netherlands, October 13, 2015. (photo credit: MICHAEL KOOREN / REUTERS)
The reconstructed wreckage of the MH17 airplane is seen after the presentation of the final report into the crash of July 2014 of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, in Gilze Rijen, the Netherlands, October 13, 2015.
(photo credit: MICHAEL KOOREN / REUTERS)

A Dutch court on Thursday convicted three suspects of murder for their role in shooting down Malaysia Airlines passenger flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 and acquitted one.

The convicted men, two Russian former intelligence officers and a Ukrainian separatist leader, were found guilty of downing the plane and killing all 298 people on board.

The fourth suspect on trial was acquitted.

At the time, the area was the scene of fighting between pro-Russian separatist and Ukrainian forces, the precursor of this year's conflict.

Victims' representatives say the ruling will be an important milestone, though the suspects, all of whom face life sentences, remain fugitives. They are all believed to be in Russia, which will not extradite them.

Moscow denies any involvement or responsibility for MH17's downing and in 2014 it also denied any presence in Ukraine.

A man writes on a message board for passengers, onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, during its fifth annual remembrance event in Kuala Lumpur (credit: REUTERS)A man writes on a message board for passengers, onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, during its fifth annual remembrance event in Kuala Lumpur (credit: REUTERS)

Prosecutors say the suspects, three former Russian intelligence officers and a Ukrainian separatist military leader, helped arrange and transport a Russian army BUK missile system into Ukraine that was used to shoot down the plane.

They were charged with shooting down an airplane and with murder in a trial held under Dutch law. They could alternatively be convicted of manslaughter charges if judges at the Hague District Court find the act was not premeditated.

Suspects believed they were targeting a Ukrainian fighter jet

Phone call intercepts that formed a key part of the evidence against the men suggested they believed they were targeting a Ukrainian fighter jet.

Three of the men were tried in absentia and the fourth pleaded not guilty via lawyers he hired to represent him. None attended the trial.

Victims of MH17, which had been en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, came from 10 different countries. More than half were Dutch.

The investigation was led by the Netherlands, with participation from Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia and Belgium.

The suspects are Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy, and Oleg Pulatov; and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko.

Judges will begin reading the verdict at 1:30 p.m. local time (1230 GMT) at the high-security court next to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.