Bodies of victims on the ground at the crash site near Tehran on January 8, 2020

Iran's President Kept In Dark About Downing Of Airliner, Ex-Official Says

Monday, 03/27/2023

Iran’s former presidential chief of staff says after the downing of a Ukrainian airliner in 2020, the President was not told it was shot down by IRGC missiles.

Mahmoud Vaezi told Mashreq news in Tehran on Monday that “the night when we were informed the Americans had killed Qassem Soleimani in Iraq it was a very tough time. Then the downing of the Ukrainian plane was so hard to bear.”

Flight PS 752 was hit with two surface-to-air missiles as it was taking off from Tehran on January 8, 2020, in the tense aftermath of Iran's missile attack on United States military bases in Iraq. The missile attack on US bases was in retaliation for the US killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad days earlier.

Vaezi went on to say that President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other senior presidential aides were not initially told that the plane was shot down.

All 176 people onboard died in the incident, many dual-national Canadians, the Ukrainian pilots and crew, British citizens and others.

Iran first said that the crash was an accident but after video emerged showing projectiles hitting the plane and remarks by the United States and Canada that they had evidence of anti-aircraft missiles having been fired at the aircraft, the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) admitted three days later that it was responsible for shooting down the airliner, resulting from “human error.”

Families of flight PS752 victims protesting in January 2022

“At that time, President Rouhani insisted on making a statement as soon as possible to tell the people everything,” he added, but before that “Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and Roads Minister Mohammad Eslami did not know what had really happened.”

He went on to say that after news outlets abroad reported it was not an accident and the plane was shot down, the Rouhani administration followed up but they [the IRGC] denied, and “finally we found out the truth, but we were having a hard time.”

One day after the incident, President Rouhani’s spokesman denied that the airliner was shot down.

"All these reports are a psychological warfare against Iran...all those countries whose citizens were onboard the plane can send representatives and we urge Boeing to send its representative to join the process of investigating the black box," Ali Rabiei said in a statement.

However, Iran never allowed investigators to visit the country or interview any officials. After months of delay, Tehran passed on the flight data recorder to France for analysis, but no new information emerged. The issue was not how the plane had crashed but to find out who had issued the order to fire at the airplane.

In the three years since the tragedy, the families of the victims have explored multiple avenues to get answers from Iran, including taking the unusual step last year of filing a case in the International Criminal Court.

A sham trail of a few low-ranking military men was held in Tehran but victim families who attended a few court sessions dismissed the exercise as futile in uncovering the truth about which high-ranking officials were responsible.

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