More than 300 relatives of victims who died when Flight MH17 was shot down are suing four suspects being tried in the Netherlands.
The four suspects – three Russian, one Ukrainian – are being tried for murder and shooting down the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane over eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014.
All 298 people on board the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed.
The four men have not appeared in court, and only one of them has legal representation in the trial, which is still at a preliminary stage and is being held near Amsterdam.
So far, 316 relatives of those who died on Flight MH17 have said they plan to seek damages – while 76 intend to exercise their right to speak during the trial.
Lawyer Arlette Schijns told judges on Monday that the families want damages as a recognition of the injustice they suffered, and said Russian “disinformation” compounds their grief.
Before the claims are filed, lawyers have asked the court to first rule whether Dutch or Ukrainian law should be applied when requesting damages.
For damages to be awarded, the court would have to find the suspects guilty in a trial that is expected to last more than a year.
Ms Schijns told the court: “This is about individuals who were confronted six years ago with a terrible loss that continues to have an influence on their lives today.”
Some families watched the lawyer speak from a public gallery in the court, which is near the airport where the doomed flight took off.
“The criminal trial is important for them because it will establish the facts of what happened on 17 July 2014,” she said.
“Who is responsible for it? What sentence they deserve.
“In other words, it’s about justice, fairness, crime and punishment.”
Prosecutors claim the missile that downed MH17 was transported into Ukraine from a Russian military base – but the Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement.
In July, the Dutch government said it was filing a suit at the European Court of Human Rights against Moscow as it holds Russia responsible for the disaster, in which two-thirds of the victims were Dutch.
Ms Schijns said the “obstruction and disinformation” by Russian authorities is compounding the victims’ relatives’ grief.
“We’re talking here about people of flesh and blood,” she added.
“In addition to the grief they face because of the loss of their dearest, they are additionally injured by Russia’s attitude.”
An international investigation that has taken years finally resulted in prosecutors naming the four suspects last year.
Russians Igor Girkin, Sergey Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, are all on trial in absentia, with only Pulatov represented by lawyers.
It is not yet clear how many families will submit compensation requests, but Ms Schijns said the amount of compensation “must reflect the seriousness and the importance of this crime and those consequences for the relatives”.
Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis has adjourned the trial until 28 September.
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