Names of downed Malaysian airliner victims read out as murder trial opens

Relatives sat listening with bowed heads and eyes closed as the names of all 298 victims of a missile strike on a Malaysian airliner were read out in a Dutch court on Monday (March 9) as the murder trial of four fugitive defendants began.

None of the accused in the disaster - three Russians and a Ukrainian - were present in the courtroom and all four are believed to be in Russia. Only one sent a defense lawyer.

Judges ruled that the men had waived their rights to attend and said proceedings would continue without them.

"They (the defendants) are now under the protection of the regime in Russia," Peter Langstraat, part of the team of lawyers representing 398 relatives of 244 victims, told journalists. Langstraat said he hoped "the long arm of justice" would catch up to the suspects eventually.

"Look at what happened to the Lockerbie case," he said, referring to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over which a Libyan intelligence officer was jailed for life. "Finally you know, justice was done."