The trial of ten military personnel involved in shooting down a Ukrainian airliner in 2019 began in Tehran Monday with some parents boycotting the proceedings.
Families of some of those killed in Iran’s downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752 on January 8, 2019 say the trial of those allegedly responsible lacks transparency and due process. "This a shameful show with ten low-ranking officers on trial," said Hamed Esmaeilion, the Canada-based spokesman for some of the families, Sunday.
Abbas Abdi, a reformist politician, in a tweet Monday also criticized the authorities. "Make the trial transparent,” he wrote. “It will be in everyone's interest," he wrote.
The passenger plane was hit by two surface-to-air missiles in the tense aftermath of Iran's missile attack on United States military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the US killing of Iranian general Ghasem Soleimani and nine others in Baghdad. All 176 onboard died.
Among those protesting outside court were family members either barred from attending or refusing to acknowledge the court. Protesters held photos of victims and chanted slogans, while surrounded by police and security forces who kept others away.
Names, ranks, and positions of the suspects were not disclosed. Victims' families and critics say those on trial are not responsible for decisions taken at a higher level on the night of the incident. They say Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander was responsible because he did not “clear the airspace.”
Hajizadeh commented last week on the tragedy, which Iran attributed to the misalignment of a mobile surface-to-air missile battery at a time of high alert. "How is it possible that a plane so huge cannot return to the airport and land [after being hit] by a few kilos of explosives?" Hajizadeh asked a gathering of Sharif University students November 15.
In response Abolfazl Najafi-Tehrani, a dissident cleric and publisher in Tehran tweetedNovember 17: "It is not too far-fetched that few years from now Hajizadeh and Co. ask there is a question of why the Ukrainian plane placed itself in the path of our missile to cause this incident and to demand the families of the victims and the Ukrainian airliner to pay for the missiles that the plane hit itself against!"
In another reaction reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh tweeted: "The nation's question is why you couldn't tell the difference between the Ukrainian passenger flight and an enemy missile [to shoot at it]? Why two [missiles]? Why did you lie to the world for several days?"
The Ukrainian ambassador refused an invitation to attend the trial. Ukrainian journalist Anna Rajskaya tweeted Sunday that the ambassador did not want to legitimize the trial given the Ukrainian deputy justice minister had said Iran’s investigation was inadequate.
A date for the next session has not been announced.