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(File pic) Former Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abd Rahman said the country turned down the offer as it was too occupied with investigation into the disappearance of flight MH370. (NSTP/SAIFULLIZAN TAMADI)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia was offered to lead investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 that was shot down on July 17 five years ago.

Former Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Seri Azharuddin Abd Rahman said the country turned down the offer as it was too occupied with investigation into the disappearance of flight MH370.

“Under the protocol of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) Annex 13, the country where the incident had occurred would lead the investigation into the case.

“Because Ukraine is unable to go into the rebel-controlled area, the countries responsible (affected by the downing of MH17) which include Malaysia as the state operating the aircraft agreed for the investigation to be lead by the Dutch authorities.

“Malaysia was offered (to lead the investigation). However, we told them that we were too occupied with MH370, which happened four months before that. We were far away from the crash site,” he said.

Azharuddin said this at the MH17: The Quest For Justice conference here today.

The day-long conference was jointly organised by the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), the Perdana Global Peace Foundation (PGPF) and the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG) in collaboration with the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

Azharuddin also shared with the audience that Malaysia, which only became member of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing MH17 after six months into the tragedy, downloaded and listened to the voice recordings from the black boxes of the aircraft before it was officially handed over to the Dutch authorities.

“The black boxes, the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were taken by us from the rebels through Colonel Mohd Sakri Hussin.”

Mohd Sakri was the chief negotiator of the ‘Dozen Persons’, a Malaysian team tasked with entering Ukraine covertly to secure not just the bodies of the victims but also the downed aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder, mere days after the tragedy took place.

“We have downloaded and listened (from the recordings from the black boxes) as we wanted to know what exactly happened the last seconds of the incident.

“The preliminary report was made known and I had to inform the (Malaysian) government (of the findings).”

To a question from a speaker at the forum on the location of the black boxes now, Azharuddin said all the evidence was kept by the Dutch authorities.

“This is because the prosecution of this case would be done in at the Court in the Netherlands.

“That is why it (all the evidence including the black boxes) is with the authorities there.

“It is the same with the Lockerbie incident involving Pan Am Flight. The international requirement is that the evidence is kept at the place where the prosecution is being conducted,” he said.

Pan Am Flight 103 exploded when it was flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec 21, 1988.

Twenty six years later, flight MH17, which was flying 298 passengers and crew including 43 Malaysians was shot down near Hrabove, a village in the eastern part of Ukraine.

The aircraft had departed Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and was on its way to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down.

Flight MH370 vanished from radar while on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.

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