judge Hendrik Steenhuis mh17 trial
© Peter Dejong/The Associated Press
Presiding judge Hendrik Steenhuis sits at the centre of a panel at the start of the trial of four men charged with murder over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on March 9, 2020, in Amsterdam.
The presiding judge in the trial of murder in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, has dropped a bombshell at the end of his 45-minute presentation in court in The Netherlands on Monday morning.

Reading from a prepared script, Judge Hendrik Steenhuis ordered the Dutch prosecutors and the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team, which has provided the evidence for the murder charges, to report to the court whether US satellite data, allegedly showing the launch of a BUK missile to bring down the aircraft, have been provided to the investigation. The judge's order also requires the prosecutors to explain whether the American satellite evidence can now be released to the court and to the lawyers representing Oleg Pulatov, one of the four men accused in the firing of the missile.

On January 22, 2016, according to Hendrick, a Dutch member of parliament claimed in a parliamentary hearing that "the US has satellite images of the missile being fired", and that these images were "shared with Dutch intelligence." The Dutch parliamentarian was not named. According to Steenhuis, the MP also announced "the US has no objection to declassification".

"Is this correct?" Steenhuis issued an order to the prosecutors for answer. "Is this satellite data to be released?"

The order for disclosure of the US satellite evidence opens in court for the first time the possibility that the Dutch prosecution may not be able to produce the satellite images because the US has not released them; because a Dutch military intelligence report of September 21, 2016, says it had received from the US no satellite imagery of a BUK missile launch at MH17; and because the data may not exist at all.

The full story will be published in Moscow on Tuesday morning.