Dutch call for more transparency in MH17 probe as police briefs victims’ relatives (RT EXCLUSIVE)
“It is difficult and complicated that we cannot yet share as much information as we deal with,” Fred Westerbeke, the chief Dutch prosecutor investigating the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine told a press conference on Monday, adding that giving away too much information “could jeopardize the investigation.”
Commenting on the much-awaited results of the probe, Westerbeke declined to announce an exact completion date, but promised to finish “as quickly as possible, if only because of the frustration among the families.”
A team of 80 policemen operating in Netherlands and Ukraine are currently working on the investigation full time, said Wilbert Paulissen, the head of the Dutch National Crime Squad. In trying to explain why it has taken so much time to come to any definitive conclusions, he said that the investigation involved questioning more than one hundred witnesses and in-depth research into the capabilities of missile systems.
“Was it operated by one person or by several people? Could it distinguish between a passenger and a warplane? All this is relevant information for the eventual prosecution of the perpetrators,” he told a press conference.
The probe is supposed to determine the launch site of the Buk surface-to-air missile that is said to have brought down the plane in July 2014. It has been ongoing for a year and a half under complete secrecy. Meanwhile, the families of 200 Dutch victims have been demanding the release of evidence and more transparency from the authorities.
The Dutch town of Hilversum lost 15 people to the accident. Robert van Heyningen lost his brother, sister-in-law, and a nephew overnight. He told RT about his frustration over the investigation and its slow pace.
“They should operate more quickly and the time that has passed since the plane went down… it’s a long time, it is too long and I would be more satisfied if the investigation team had published their conclusions,” he said, lamenting the lack of publicly available details about the crash, which have not even been shared with the victims’ families.
“For me, and for my wife as well, the main goal is to know the truth about what happened,” van Heyningen stressed.
Jules Dresme, a local pastor who knows all of the relatives of the victims from Hilversum, told RT that many already do not believe they will ever learn the truth.
“Everybody has a conviction, that it is really… perhaps impossible to find out what the truth it. We don’t hear very much. We hear it in the paper, we see it on television but what is really going on at the highest level…we wait, we have no idea,” said the pastor.
Calls for the investigation to shed light on the murky details have been becoming more vocal. While rules of secrecy may apply to criminal investigations, details from a technical investigation, such as the one into the MH17 crash, should be more transparent, argues Harry van Bommel, a Dutch MP from the Socialist Party.
“Criminal investigation is never fully open because we do not want to inform the possible people that are involved in downing of MH17 of how far the investigation is going and who we are looking at. So I understand we cannot get all the details of a criminal investigation yet. Technical investigation is another thing,” van Bommel told RT.
“If we want to look at satellite or radar information, then I think the government should do more to give transparency to the Dutch audience, relatives, and also to Dutch parliament,” he added.
He particularly criticized the US for not sharing information, citing US Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement last year claiming that the American government has all the relevant satellite data on the missile launch that allegedly led to the MH17 disaster.
“It is a problem, it is a big problem, because the Secretary of State clearly states that he knows, where [the missile that hit the plane] came from, he knows exactly when and how,” van Bommel said. “If he [Kerry] has radar or satellite information… then it should be shared with the Dutch Safety Board or the criminal investigators. It has not been shared, unfortunately,” van Bommel added, stressing that “Americans are usually very refraining from giving information out in the open."
Bellingcat MH17 report ‘deliberately anti-Russian, distorts facts’ – Russian MoD
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry has dismissed an amateur report released by Bellingcat that accuses Russia of downing Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The ministry says the study is not based on facts and was produced with a predetermined conclusion in mind.
“The so-called journalistic investigations by Bellingcat distort facts. The information they present is deliberately anti-Russian in nature and based on distorted evidence,” it said in a statement. “The unproven statements are aimed at having a publicity impact.”
So far “no real proof of any presence of Russian troops in Ukraine” has been published, the ministry added.
Bellingcat is a UK-based journalistic group that purportedly uses open-source photo and video evidence to investigate high-profile events.
The group has released several reports on the MH17 incident. The latest, which was released last Friday, claimed to show a convoy of civilian and military vehicles accompanying a missile launcher that Bellingcat claims shot down the plane. The report is based on photos the group found on social media.
The downing of MH17 on July 17, 2014 was one of the lowest points of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, which claimed sovereignty after an armed coup in Kiev. Rebel forces there have been fighting Ukrainian forces that were sent to the region as part of a so-called “anti-terrorist operation” by the new Kiev authorities. Immediately following the tragic event, several Western countries claimed to have irrefutable evidence of Russia’s complicity in downing the plane. However, no evidence of Russian involvement has so far been published.