Dutch expert says vindicated by probe into MH17 photos

The Hague: A Dutch forensics expert who worked on the MH17 air disaster demanded a ministerial apology today saying a police probe has cleared him of any wrong-doing in showing medical students photos of the dead.

University professor George Maat was reportedly fired from the Dutch national forensics team after he gave a lecture in Maastricht in April last year about the 2014 Malaysia Airlines disaster.

Organised by a medical students association, Maat, a professor at Leiden University, showed photos of victims’ body parts and explained elements of the identification process to help teach the students.

Justice Minister Ard Van der Steur said at the time that it had been “completely inappropriate and in bad taste.”

But Maat says a police investigation, which he was given access to, has exonerated him, agreeing with his view that he did not break any confidentiality and privacy laws.

All 298 passengers and crew onboard the Malaysia Airlines jetliner — most of them Dutch — died when it was shot down en route to Kuala Lumpur at high altitude by a BUK Russian-made missile over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

The police investigation into Maat’s lecture to about 150 people “showed nothing unusual had happened,” he told AFP.

Similar lectures have been held in the past and the fact that it was in a lecture hall “on a university campus should have guaranteed that this was only meant for medical students” and for educational purposes.

The furor erupted when two reporters from the private television channel RTL Nieuws “had sneaked in pretending to be students and had been publishing” out of context his words.

“It was presented by the broadcasting company as if I was releasing criminal investigation data, which was not the fact at all.”

Maat has now called on Van de Steur to apologise and to publicly acknowledge that he remains a member of the national forensics team — saying he was never fired as had been reported but merely sidelined.

“Never has any apology been made, nor has my honour been restored,” Maat added.

Officials at the justice ministry could not immediately be contacted by AFP for a comment, but Dutch media reported Van der Steur planned to respond later.

The police investigation has not been published, and Maat said he spent six hours copying it with a paper and pencil when he was allowed to read it under police surveillance.