October 28, 2014 / 12:38 PM / 3 years ago

MH17 investigators still awaiting U.S., Russian intelligence reports

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch prosecutors are still awaiting U.S. intelligence reports on the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 but American laws on passing on such information to criminal investigations are complicating the process, the Dutch government said on Tuesday.

Members of the recovery team work at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, October 13, 2014. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

The Dutch have the lead role in investigating the downing of the Boeing 777 aircraft, which crashed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine in July with the loss of all 298 people aboard, two thirds of them Dutch.

With the crash site too dangerous to access due to fighting, they have been relying mostly on publicly available information to carry out a remote investigation.

The U.S. and Russian governments have both said who they believe was behind the aircraft’s downing, each citing intelligence information that is not publicly available.

The United States said its satellite imagery proved it was shot down with a ground-to-air missile by Russian-backed rebels. Russian says a Ukrainian military aircraft downed it.

“It is desirable for prosecutors to receive further information from the U.S. in connection with the criminal investigation,” the government said in a letter to Parliament.

Lawmakers had asked whether the United States had provided imagery from the 10 minutes before and after the crash. Only the latter were referred to in an interim air crash inspection report published last month.

“In the American legal system it is judicially complicated to pass intelligence information to the criminal justice system,” the letter said.

It added that the government was sure the information would come.

Prosecutors have also said they plan to ask Russian authorities for radar data supposedly in Russian possession that shows a Ukrainian fighter was in the vicinity of the airliner, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Monday.

Last month’s interim report by the Dutch Safety Board, which investigates air crashes, said there were several civilian airliners flying nearby but no military aircraft that would have been capable of shooting it down.

Reporting By Thomas Escritt, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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