Debris of a Ukrainian airliner shot down over Iran. January 8, 2019

Families Of Victims Say Iran's Top Officials Responsible For Ukraine Airliner Crash


The 2020 downing of a Ukrainian jetliner by Iran was the responsibility of high-level Iranian officials, not an accident as Tehran claimed, families of victims said in a report on Wednesday.

The report by an association composed of mostly Canadian families of Flight PS752 victims challenges Iran's official findings that blamed a misaligned radar and an error by the air defense operator for downing the plane shortly after it took off from Tehran's Airport in early morning on January 8 2020. All 176 people aboard were killed.

Iran for three days denied that the airliner was shot down and claimed it was an accident. After it acknowledged that two missiles fired 30 seconds apart had brought the plane down, it refused an independent investigation and tried to withhold information from Ukraine and Canada.

Iran's civil aviation body, which had responsibility for investigating the crash, said the operator mistook the jet for a missile at a time when tensions were high between Tehran and the United States. Hours earlier, Iran had fired ballistic missile at US bases in Iraq and was probably expecting a response.

A Canadian investigation in June which condemned "those responsible" but found no evidence that the tragedy was premeditated, but critics say that the country’s top leadership decided to leave the civilian airspace open at a time of high military tension on that day..

"It is the belief of the association that high-ranking officials of Iran are responsible for the downing of Flight PS752 and not just a handful of low ranking...members as per the claims of the government of Iran," the association report said.

"At the highest levels of military alertness, the government of Iran used passenger flights as human shield against possible American attacks, by deliberately not closing the airspace to civilian flights," it said.

Association president Hamed Esmaeilion told a virtual news conference: "We think that the downing of PS752 was a deliberate act."

The Iranian foreign ministry was not immediately available to comment.

The association said it based its report on public information and recordings of "high-ranking Iranian officials" among its sources and was prepared with assistance from aviation and legal experts.

It is not an official air crash accident report, which is designed to focus not on liability but how safety can be improved in the future.

The report said the missile system operator was experienced and should have been able to distinguish the jetliner from a cruise missile.

The trial of ten lower-level military personnel opened in Tehran on Monday. Many families in Iran refused to recognize the trial and protested outside the courtroom.

A Canadian government spokeswoman said the country is analyzing the report, which calls for an international investigation. Many of the victims killed in the crash were Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly tweeted on Tuesday that the country "stands with Ukraine" in its decision to not take part in PS752 hearings at a military court in Iran, calling for "transparency in the criminal proceedings."

With reporting by Reuters

Economics Daily

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