Families who lost loved ones in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in 2020 are outraged by light sentences issued for a few low-ranking military men.
“Is this Islamic justice? A trash bin was burned [during protests], and a young man was executed [for that]. By deliberate shooting of two missiles 176 individuals and an unborn baby were killed and it resulted in thirteen years of prison for someone whose role in this case is not clear,” Beheshteh Rezapour who lost her 33-year-old daughter, in the tragic incident said in an interview with Iran International TV.
“So, commanders, those who issued the order, where do they stand in this case?” she added.
Mehrdad Zarei whose eighteen-year-old son Arad died in the incident in a video released on social media accused Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, IRGC Commander Hossein Salami, Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC aerospace force, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and other military and government officials of responsibility for the downing and said they should be put on trial by an independent international tribunal or “after Iran's freedom”.
Some journalists and activists have also criticized the court process and the ruling.
Political activist Abdollah Momeni in a tweet pointed out that activist Mehdi Mahmoudian and women's rights activist Bahareh Hedayat are currently serving the same sentence as the unnamed top defendant in the Ukrainian flight case, only for lighting candles at a rally to honor the memory of the victims of the incident. “This is exactly what judicial justice is in the Islamic Republic!”
“Those who were killed in the shooting down of the Ukrainian plane had names and identities, but the names and identities of the defendants supposedly put on trial was not announced…When a crime is public nobody will believe a trial that is secretive,” Mohammad-Javad Akbarin, a Muslim scholar and former cleric tweeted.
The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims has also criticized the ruling and said the case will remain open with the people. According to the Association, more than 70 complainants from the families of victims withdrew their complaints prior to the announcement of the ruling and refuted the court’s competence to prosecute the crime.
“The governments of the four other affected countries are not absolved of their responsibility to seek justice for their citizens,” the association said in a statement Monday. The group demanded the referral of the dispute to the International Court of Justice immediately after the end of the arbitration period, on June 28, 2023 as well as listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity.
More than three years after the incident, Iran's judiciary on Sunday sentenced the unnamed commander of the IRGC’s Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system that shot down the plane to 13 years, of which he will be required to serve 10 years including the time he has already spent in prison. Nine others were also sentenced from one to two years.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, on Monday insisted that Iran has carried out all its duties regarding the case “in accordance with the Chicago Convention” and its own laws and regulations, adding that families of the victims will be paid compensation.
According to Kanaani, there were 117 plaintiffs in the case who were represented by 20 lawyers during the trial. Defendants can appeal the ruling within twenty days from the time of being notified of the ruling, he said.