Father of two victims who died when Iran’s IRGC shot down a Ukrainian airliner says the regime still refuses to release documents proving the act it was intentional.
Dr. Mohsen Asadi-Lari, a former high-ranking health ministry official who lost both his children, Mohammad-Hossein and Zeinab, in the downing of the Ukrainian plane on January 8, 2020,told Didbaniran website Sunday that there is evidence the shooting was intentional, but the authorities would not release the evidence.
Iranian authorities who first claimed it was air crash due to a mechanical problem, three days after the incident admitted the plane was shot down with 176 people onboard, but insisted that it was due to human error.
Asadi-Lari said they asked the court to investigate the evidence proving that firing of two anti-air missiles at he plane was intentional and also demanded that the data to be released to them, but the court did not pay attention. He said that the information recorded on the plane’s flight recorder – known as the black box -- would definitively impact the final rulings.
He added that the conversations between the plane and the control tower can shed light on the circumstances of the missile attack. “We are sure that he deliberately triggered the attack and we have raised this in the court in different ways," he said about the missile operator.
Asadi-Lari added that the prime suspect in the case, identified as a Major Mehdi Khosravi, will be released in the near future because according to Iran’s laws he has spent about a third of his sentence. More than three years have passed since the incident and Khosravi was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Mohammad-Hossein and Zeinab who died when the IRGC shot down an airliner in January 2020
He claimed that Khosravi has been kept in solitary confinement since January 2020, saying, “Anyone familiar with Iran’s prison and judicial matters knows what it means to be in solitary confinement.” His remarks implicitly pointed to the fact that the regime does not want him to talk about the details of the incident.
“Compare the case of this plane with the case of the executed protestors, who were hanged for blocking a street or setting fire to a trash bin,” he said, adding that 176 innocent people were killed, and the culprit can go free after 40 months in prison.
Asadi-Lari clarified that the family do not seek execution for the officer because he was a service member and was doing his job, but they want the truth to be revealed.
Asadi-Lari and his wife Dr. Zahra Majd earlier insisted that the ten low-ranking military personnel on trial are not the real culprits. They claimed Khosravi was an expert in the Tor-M1 surface-to-air system that shot down the plane and that it was unbelievable that he had made the decision based by error.
Ukraine's flight PS752 was shot down on January 8, 2020, as it took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. Only hours earlier, the IRGC had fired more than a dozen missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US troops in retaliation for the killing of the IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani by a targeted US drone strike just five days earlier.
Despite expecting retaliation from the US, the IRGC which is responsible for air defense of the capital did not close the civilian airspace in the early morning hours of January 8.
Asadi-Lari and his wife, both professors at Iran Medical Sciences University, say the whole family, including their two children who were students in Canadian universities, were devastated by Soleimani's killing and were very worried about a US retaliation for Iran's missile attack while the family was on their way to the airport. Before the flight took off, their son Mohammad-Hossein had been praying for Soleimani who was buried the day before.
Unlike parents and family members of many other victims of the tragedy, the Asadi-Lari family are not members of the Canada-based association representing victims' families. The association does not recognize the eligibility of the Islamic Republic's Judiciary for investigating the incident and has repeatedly called for top Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, to be held responsible.