After holding a memorial service with relatives of people killed in the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17), a Malaysian minister said Thursday that he hoped a Dutch court would charge those responsible by year’s end.
A five-country Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had questioned more than 200 people and narrowed the list to 100 who could be responsible for shooting down MH17 over the Ukraine on July 17, 2014, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters.
“Hopefully by the end of this year or next year, we can get a decision on who we can charge in court,” he said.
A family member who attended the memorial service but declined to be identified said mourners were not informed of such details during the session held in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, near Kuala Lumpur.
“We were not given a time frame as to when the investigations will be completed, let alone the prosecutions be done,” the relative told BenarNews. “Looks like the information given to you [reporters] differs completely from what was briefed to the families.”
He said Thursday’s service was only the second time that authorities met with victims' survivors in the three years since the plane went down, killing all 298 passengers and crew, including nearly 200 citizens of the Netherlands. Forty-three Malaysians and 13 Indonesians were aboard the doomed flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
“The only thing I can gather from the briefing is the government seems to be on the right track on the matter, but they couldn’t answer me when I asked when there would be closure,” he said.
About 90 people attended the memorial service and briefing session, which were closed to the media.
Following the service, Liow told reporters that survivors were briefed on the ongoing investigations and a decision earlier this month by the Joint Investigation Team to try the suspects in the Netherlands instead of an international court because of the number of victims.
“They asked us a lot of questions and we answered what we can,” he said, adding that the families had expressed appreciation for the Malaysian government’s effort to bring those responsible to justice.
Wreckage from the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 lies near the town of Shaktarsk, Ukraine, July 18, 2014. [AFP]
Families support investigation
The father of Mohd Ali Md Salim, a passenger on the Boeing 777 who was a doctorate student at the University of Rotterdam, spoke to reporters after the service.
“I’m happy with the explanation given by the government and all the family members are hoping justice will be done and we will wait,” Md Salim Sarmo said.
Meanwhile, the co-pilot’s widow said she was pleased with the investigation’s progress.
“I’m really relieved that the phase of information and data collection is finally over and now the investigation is moving to the second phase,” Sharifah Asmaa Alwee Aljuned, the widow of Malaysia Airlines First Officer Ahmed Hakimi Hanapi, told BenarNews.
“I’m positive that all the efforts being put in place by JIT would lead to justice.”
The JIT’s members from Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Malaysia and Ukraine have established that the plane was shot down by a Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian government forces. In September 2016, JIT issued an interim report which concluded that the missile was transported from Russia.
Russian officials proclaimed innocence and blamed the Ukrainian military for the tragedy.
Reacting to the report, Russian officials said radar data proved that no rocket was fired from within territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the Ukraine.
On a conference call with reporters at the time, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian radar had identified all flying objects over the rebel territory.
“The data are clear-cut … there is no rocket,” he said. “If there was a rocket, it could only have been fired from elsewhere.”
Fourteen months earlier, Russia used its veto power at the U.N. Security Council to block a resolution aimed at creating an international MH17 tribunal, saying that doing so would be counterproductive.