A Dutch court has found three men guilty of manslaughter for their part in the 2014 bombing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Ukraine and sentenced them to life in prison. A fourth person was released.
“Only the most severe punishment is appropriate to avenge what the suspects did, which has caused a lot of suffering to the victims and the many surviving family members,” presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis said on Thursday.
On July 17, 2014, flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people on board.
Families of the victims wept in court as Steenhuis read the verdict.
The three men convicted in Russia were Igor Girkin and Sergey Dubinskiy, and Leonid Kharchenko, a Ukrainian separatist leader.
The three were found to have helped arrange the shipment of Russian BUK missiles to Ukraine that were used to shoot down the plane even though they were not the ones who actually fired the missile.
They are refugees and believe they are in Russia. Extradition is considered impossible.
A fourth suspect, Russian Oleg Pulatov, was acquitted of all charges.
The plane left the wreckage of the plane and the remains of the victims scattered in the cornfields. The area at the time was fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces, which was a precursor to this year’s conflict.
“The families of the victims wanted the truth and they wanted justice to be done and those who caused them to be punished, and that’s what happened. I am very satisfied,” Piet Ploeg, who heads the organization representing the victims, told Reuters. Ploeg’s brother, his brother’s wife and his niece died on MH17.
The decision included a 16-million-euro ($16.5m) award for damages to the victims that will be paid by the Dutch state if not paid by the arrested men.