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Judges allow extra investigations for defense at MH17 trial

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Judges in the trial in absentia of three Russians and a Ukrainian charged with involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Friday granted some requests for further investigations submitted by lawyers representing one of the Russians.

Among the additional investigations granted by the Dutch court was allowing defense lawyers and an expert to examine the wreckage of the Boeing 777 that is stored at a Dutch airbase. Judges also called on prosecutors to again request access to U.S. satellite images that reportedly show a missile launch at the time the flight was shot down.

Defense lawyers last month submitted a long list of requests for further investigations, witness interviews and expert opinions as they accused prosecutors of tunnel vision in focusing almost exclusively on the widely accepted theory that the plane was shot down by a Buk missile fired from territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels on July 17, 2014. All 298 passengers and crew were killed.

Prosecutors allege that the missile was trucked into Ukraine from a Russian military base shortly before flight MH17 was brought down. After years of investigations by an international team, prosecutors last year named four suspects: Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov as well as Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. None of them has appeared for the trial, which started in March and is still at a preliminary stage.

The defense wants more investigation into alternative scenarios, including that the passenger jet was shot down by a Ukrainian air force fighter jet or by a missile fired by Ukrainian forces. Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis rejected some requests and postponed decisions on others until the Dutch defense lawyers have had a chance to speak to their client, Pulatov.

Steenhuis adjourned the case until Aug. 31, when the court is set to discuss the issue of compensation claims by relatives of those killed when the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight was shot down.

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