Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752
UR-PSR (B738) at Ben Gurion Airport.jpg
UR-PSR, the aircraft involved in the incident, in October 2019
Shootdown
Date 8 January 2020 (2020-01-08)
Summary Shot down by two IRGC Tor M-1 missiles[1]
Site Khalajabad, Shahriar County, Tehran Province, Iran[2]
35°33′40″N 51°06′14″E / 35.56111°N 51.10389°E / 35.56111; 51.10389Coordinates: 35°33′40″N 51°06′14″E / 35.56111°N 51.10389°E / 35.56111; 51.10389
Aircraft
Aircraft type Boeing 737-8KV
Operator Ukraine International Airlines
IATA flight No. PS752
ICAO flight No. AUI752
Call sign UKRAINE INTERNATIONAL 752
Registration UR-PSR
Flight origin Imam Khomeini International Airport, Tehran
Destination Boryspil International Airport, Kiev
Occupants 176
Passengers 167
Crew 9
Fatalities 176[3]
Survivors 0

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) was a scheduled international passenger flight from Tehran to Kiev operated by Ukraine International Airlines (UIA). On 8 January 2020, the Boeing 737-800 operating the route was shot down shortly after takeoff from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport.[4][5][6] All 176 passengers and crew were killed; it was the first fatal air accident involving Ukraine International Airlines.[7]

The airplane was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which attributed it to human error, with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani describing the accident as an "unforgivable mistake". Iranian aviation authorities initially denied the airplane was hit by a missile and said a technical error was responsible, while Ukrainian authorities, after initially deferring to Iran's explanation, said a shoot-down of the flight was one of their main working theories. Investigation by Western intelligence agencies and the general public revealed that the aircraft was shot down by a Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile launched by Iran. Three days later, on 11 January, the IRGC admitted their responsibility for downing the aircraft, firing two surface-to-air missiles at it, having mistaken it for a cruise missile.[8]

The incident occurred during the 2019–20 Persian Gulf crisis, at a time of heightened tensions five days after U.S. president Donald Trump launched a drone strike killing Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani in Iraq in retaliation for the breaching of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by Iranian militia group Kata'ib Hezbollah and their supporters and hours after Iran's retaliatory ballistic missile attacks.[9] It was preceded by an order from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that all American civilian aircraft avoid Iranian airspace and was followed by similar orders by several other nations and airlines including Ukraine.[10][11]

Experts have questioned Iran's decision to not close its airspace after launching missiles; General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said a request had been made for a no-fly zone before the incident but this request was rejected.[12][13][14] Later, The New York Times reported that Iranian officials feared shutting down the airport would create mass panic that war with the United States was imminent, and they also hoped the presence of passenger jets could act as a deterrent against an American attack on the airport or the nearby military base, "effectively turning planeloads of unsuspecting travelers into human shields."[15]

As a result of the aircraft missile strike and government deception, mass protests broke out in Iran calling for the removal of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.[16]

Background

The missile strike occurred four hours after Iran launched retaliatory missile strikes on U.S. positions in Iraq for the killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani.[17] Iran was on the highest state of defensive alert and, according to Commander of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Amir Ali Hajizadeh, was "totally prepared for a full-fledged war".[18]

Aircraft

The aircraft was a Boeing 737-8KV, serial number 38124, registration UR-PSR. It was three and a half years old at the time of it being shot down, having first flown on 21 June 2016.[2] It was delivered to the airline on 19 July 2016 and was the first 737 Next Generation aircraft purchased by the airline.[19] The airline defended the airplane's maintenance record, saying it had been inspected just two days before the crash.[20][21]

Flight and crash

The flight was operated by Ukraine International Airlines, the flag carrier and the largest airline of Ukraine, on a scheduled flight from the Iranian capital Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport to Boryspil International Airport in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. Emergency officials confirmed that the aircraft was carrying 176 people, including nine crew members and fifteen children.[22]

Flight 752 was scheduled to take off at 05:15 local time (UTC+3:30), but was delayed. It departed Stand 116 and took off from Runway 29R at 06:12:08 local time and was expected to land in Kiev at 08:00 local time (UTC+2:00).[23][3] The final ADS-B data received was at 06:14:57, less than three minutes after departure.[24]

Between 06:14:17 and 06:14:45 the airplane turned from the take-off heading of 289° to heading 313°, following its regular route.[24][25]

According to the data, the last recorded altitude was at 2,416 metres (7,925 ft) above mean sea level with a ground speed of 275 knots (509 km/h; 316 mph).[26] The airport is 1,007 metres (3,305 ft) above mean sea level, but the ground around Parand and the crash site is several hundred feet higher. The flight was climbing at just under 3000 ft/min when the flight data record abruptly ended over the open ground near the northern end of Enqelab Eslami Boulevard in Parand.[24] Analysis of several videos by the New York Times shows that the aircraft was hit almost immediately by the first of two short-range missiles (which knocked out its transponder) launched thirty seconds apart by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and with the aircraft having maintained its track, by the second missile some 23 seconds later, after which it veers right and can be seen aflame before disappearing from view.[25] Ukrainian investigators believe the pilots were killed instantly by shrapnel from the missile which exploded near the cockpit.[27]

The precise track of the aircraft is unclear from that point until about a minute before it crashed, when several videos recorded its last seconds.[28][29][30] The aircraft crashed on a park and fields on the edge of the village of Khalajabad 15 kilometres (9.3 mi; 8.1 nmi) north-west of the airport,[31] and about 10 miles (16 km; 8.7 nmi) ENE of the last missile strike about seven minutes after takeoff,[25] but did not cause any casualties on the ground.

Shortly after the crash, emergency responders arrived with 22 ambulances, four bus ambulances, and a helicopter, but intense fires prevented a rescue attempt. The wreckage was strewn over a wide area, with no survivors found at the crash site.[32] The aircraft was completely destroyed on impact.[33]

Passengers and crew

People on board, based on Ukrainian official list [34] [a]
Nation Number
Iran[b] 82
Canada[c] 63
Ukraine[d] 11
Sweden[e] 10
Afghanistan[f] 7
United Kingdom[g] 3
Total 176
Recovery operations, victims of Flight 752

There were 167 passengers and nine crew members on the flight.[40] According to Iranian officials, 146 passengers used Iranian passports to leave Iran, ten used Afghan passports, five used Canadian ones, four Swedish ones, and two used Ukrainian passports.[41] There is some disagreement from other sources with this accounting of nationalities, possibly due to some passengers being nationals of more than a single country.

According to Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko and a flight manifest released by UIA,[42] out of the 167 passengers' citizenship, 82 were confirmed to be Iranian, 63 were Canadian, three were British, four were Afghan, 10 were Swedish, and three were German. Eleven Ukrainians were also onboard, nine of them being the crew.[7][36] The German Foreign Ministry denied any Germans were aboard;[43] the three people in question were Afghan nationals who lived in Germany as asylum seekers.[38] According to Iranian nationality law, the Iranian government considers dual citizens as Iranian citizens only.[44]

Of the 167 passengers, 138 were travelling to Canada via Ukraine.[45][46][47] Many of the Iranian Canadians were affiliated with Canadian universities, as students or academics who had travelled to Iran during Christmas break. The crash was the largest loss of Canadian lives in aviation since the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182.[48] On January 15, 2020, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said 57 Canadians died in the crash.[49]

In addition to six flight attendants, the crew consisted of Captain Volodymyr Gaponenko (11,600 hours on Boeing 737 aircraft, including 5,500 hours as captain), instructor pilot Oleksiy Naumkin (12,000 hours on Boeing 737, including 6,600 as captain), and first officer Serhiy Khomenko (7,600 hours on Boeing 737).[50]

Investigation

Impact zone

The Iran Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) reported shortly after the incident that a team of investigators had been sent to the crash site.[40] On the same day, the Ukrainian government said it would send experts to Tehran to assist with the investigation. President Volodymyr Zelensky instructed the Ukrainian General Prosecutor to open a criminal investigation into the crash.[51] The Ukrainian government sent 53 representatives to Iran to assist with the investigation, among them government officials, investigators, and representatives of the UIA.[52]

A Ukrainian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 prepares to depart for Iran from the Boryspil International Airport with specialists from the National Bureau of Investigation of Civil Aviation and Incidents with the Civil Aviation Service, State Aviation Service, Ukraine International Airlines and from the General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

Under standard International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) rules, according to Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention, the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would participate in the investigation, as they represented the state of the manufacturer of the aircraft. France's Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA) would participate as representatives of the state of manufacture of the aircraft's engines (a U.S.–France joint venture) and Ukraine's Ministry of Infrastructure would participate as representatives of the state in which the aircraft was registered. Given the 2019–20 Persian Gulf crisis, it is not known how these organizations would be involved, although it was reported that Iran had said American, French and Ukrainian authorities would be involved.[53]

The head of the commission for accidents in the Iran CAO said they received no emergency message from the aircraft before the crash.[54] It was reported that the aircraft's black boxes (the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR)) had been recovered, but Iran CAO said it was not clear to which country the recorders would be sent so the data could be analyzed.[55] The association said it would not hand over the black boxes to Boeing or to U.S. authorities.[56] On 9 January, the black boxes were reported, by Iranian investigators, to have been damaged and that some parts of their memory may have been lost.[57] Mary Schiavo, a former U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general, said no automated distress messages had been sent from the aircraft or by its crew.[58]

On 9 January, the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority and Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) were officially invited by the investigation team to participate in the probe on the crash.[59] The NTSB,[60][61][62] Ukraine, and Boeing were also invited to participate in the investigation.[59] Due to American economic sanctions placed on Iran, U.S. investigators would need a special licence from the Treasury and the State Departments to travel there.[63][64][65]

On 9 January, media reports showed bulldozers being used to clear the crash site. Some aircraft investigation experts expressed concerns about disturbing and damaging the crash site before a thorough investigation can be conducted.[66] Iran denied bulldozing the evidence.[67] On 10 January, the Iranian government granted Ukrainian investigators permission to investigate the flight recorders and Ukrainian investigators visited the crash site,[68][69] with plans to download the recorders in Tehran.[70] On 14 January, the head of the TSB, Kathy Fox, said there were signs that Iran would allow the TSB to participate in the downloading and analysis of data from the airplane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.[71] On 23 January, the TSB announced that they had been invited by Iran to help with the flight recorders.[72]

On 2 February, Ukrainian TV channel aired a leaked recording of the information exchange between the Iranian pilot of an Aseman Airlines flight and an Iranian air-traffic controller. The pilot allegedly stated in Persian that he saw a flash similar to missile fire in the sky, and then an explosion. Following the leak, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the new evidence proved Iran was well-aware from the very first moments that the Ukraine passenger airplane was brought down by a missile.[73] The following day Iran ceased co-operation with Ukraine in its investigation into the disaster due to this leaked recording.[74] Iran resumed co-operation on 15 February.[75]

Flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder

On 20 January, Iran asked for assistance from France and the United States to recover the data from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.[76] On 5 February, Canada urged Iran to send the recorders to France.[77] Iran denied the request.[78]

On 12 March, Iran agreed to hand over the recorders to Ukraine.[79] However, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed this action.[80][81][82] During this time, impatience began to mount from Ukraine, Canada, and ICAO.[83] On 11 June, Iran announced that the flight recorders would be sent directly to the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile (BEA) in France.[84] Canadian officials urged Iran to complete this action "as soon as possible", citing the previous delays in handing over the recorders.[85] This statement was further reinforced 11 days later, when Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif commented on this intention during a phone call with Canadian foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.[86]

Cause of the crash

Wreckage of Flight 752, with part of an engine in the foreground, showing nozzle guide vanes
Wreckage of Flight 752

On 8 January, Iran's Road and Transportation Ministry released a statement that the aircraft burst into flames after a fire started in one of its engines, causing the pilot to lose control and crash into the ground.[87][51] The airline opined that pilot error was impossible to be cited as the cause of the crash as the pilots had exclusively been trained for the Tehran flights for years, noting that Tehran Airport was "not a simple airport".[88]

Iranian and Ukrainian government sources initially blamed mechanical issues aboard the aircraft for its crash.[34][89][90] The Ukrainian government later retracted its statement and said anything was possible, refusing to rule out that the aircraft was hit by a missile.[91] President Zelensky said there should not be any speculation about the cause of the crash.[51]

On 9 January, U.S. intelligence and defence officials said they believed the aircraft had been shot down by an Iranian Tor missile (NATO reporting name SA-15 "Gauntlet"),[92] based on evidence from reconnaissance satellite imagery and radar data.[93][59] Ukrainian authorities said a shootdown was one of the "main working theories", while Iranian authorities denied this, stating that allegations of a missile hit were "psychological warfare".[94][95][96][97] British defence officials agreed with the American assessment of a shootdown.[96] Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau said evidence from multiple sources, including Canadian intelligence, suggest the aircraft was shot down by an Iranian missile.[98]

After three days of describing it as "an American lie", "a wrongful scenario by CIA and the Pentagon", and "an attempt to prevent Boeing stock from a free fall",[99][100] on 11 January, the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran admitted they had shot down the airplane, having erroneously identified it as a hostile target.[101]

The flight had been delayed by more than an hour because the captain had decided to offload some luggage because the aircraft was over its certified takeoff weight.[102]

According to an early IRGC statement, when the airplane seemed to head toward a "sensitive military centre" of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, controllers mistook it for a "hostile target" and shot it down.[103] Iran's Civil Aviation Organization disputed this timeline, arguing that the airplane was on the correct course all the time and there was no proven flight deviation.[104] The Iranian CAO's viewpoint was also supported by a Radio Canada International article that used public ADS-B flight tracking data.[105][106]

Iranian Brigadier general Amir Ali Hajizadeh of the IRGC Aerospace Defense said a missile operator in Bidganeh had acted independently, mistook the airplane for a U.S. cruise missile and shot it down. Hajizadeh also said the airplane was on-track and "made no mistake".[18][8]

Western experts had previously noted that Flight 752 was flying near several sensitive Iranian ballistic missile facilities, including the Shahid Modarres missile base at Bidganeh near Malard, which the Iranians could have believed would be targets of retaliation for their attack a few hours earlier.[107][108]

On 11 July 2020, the Iran Civil Aviation Organization reported that Iran now blamed the missile strike that downed PS752 on "bad communication" and "poor alignment". According to the Iranians, the missile battery "had been relocated and was not properly reoriented" and the guilty parties did not include the higher-ranking chain of command officers.[109][110]

Analyses based on social media

On 9 January, the Instagram account Rich Kids of Tehran published a video captioned: "The actual footage from the moment the #Ukrainian flight was shot down by a Russian-made Tor-M1 missile just moments after takeoff from #Tehran's Airport ".[111][112] The video was published at the same time the Iranian authorities were claiming technical problems for the crash.[113][114] Qassem Biniaz, a spokesman for Iran's Road and Transportation Ministry, said the pilot "lost control of the plane" after a fire broke out in one of its engines, denying the Ukrainian plane was hit by a missile.[115][116][117]

On 9 January, a video was posted on a public Telegram channel showing what was, according to Bellingcat, apparently a mid-air explosion. The New York Times contacted the person who filmed the video and confirmed its authenticity. An investigation team from Bellingcat carried out an analysis of this video and geolocated it to a residential area in Parand, a suburb west of the airport.[118][119] Bellingcat also examined photos from an unknown source and said these images of a missile nose cone had yet to be verified, despite claims from several sources.[120] The Tor missile's warhead is located in its midsection, meaning its nose may not be destroyed in an explosion.[120] Similar photographs of fragments have been taken in eastern Ukraine, but none have been found to be the same as those attributed to the recent incident.[120]

USA Today reported that the firm IHS Markit reviewed photographs showing the guidance section of a missile and "assesses them to be credible".[121][122] Aviation monitoring group Opsgroup said: "We would recommend the starting assumption to be that this was a shootdown event, similar to MH17—until there is clear evidence to the contrary" asserting that photographs "show obvious projectile holes in the fuselage and a wing section".[123]

Subsequent developments

On 9 January, President Trump said the airplane "was flying in a pretty rough neighbourhood, and somebody could have made a mistake."[124] He said the U.S. had no involvement in the incident and that he did not believe a mechanical issue had anything to do with the crash.[124] U.S. intelligence sources informed U.S. media outlets they were "confident that Iran painted the Ukrainian airliner with radar and fired two surface to air missiles that brought down the aircraft."[125][126]

Also on 9 January, at a news conference in Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the airliner was likely brought down by an Iranian missile, citing intelligence from Canadian and other sources, and said the incident "may well have been unintentional".[127]

On 10 January, during an interview with Sky News, Iran's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, rejected video footage obtained by American media that showed bulldozers clearing the crash site as "absurd".[128] Baeidinejad further denied that an Iranian missile had brought down the airplane, and said that "[p]lane accidents are a very technical issue, I cannot judge, you cannot judge, reporters on the ground cannot judge. Nobody can judge. A foreign minister or a prime minister cannot judge on this issue."[129]

On 11 January, Iran admitted it had shot down the Ukrainian jet by "accident", the result of human error. General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division, said his unit accepts "full responsibility" for the shootdown. In an address broadcast by state television, he said that when he learned about the downing of the airplane, "I wished I was dead." Hajizadeh said that, with his forces on high alert, an officer mistook it for a hostile missile and made a "bad decision".[130]

On 14 January, the Rich Kids of Tehran Instagram account published a new video, showing two missiles hitting the aircraft.[131] The security camera footage, verified by The New York Times, shows two missiles, fired 30 seconds apart.[132] On 20 January, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization also admitted that the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard had fired two Russian-made Tor-M1 missiles at the aircraft.[133][134]

Aftermath

Commemoration of the victims of the air crash in Iran at Kyiv Boryspil airport
Commemoration of the victims of the air crash in Iran

On 17 January, the Canadian government announced that it would provide C$25,000 to the relatives of each of the 57 Canadian citizens and permanent residents who were killed in the crash. The funds were to help cover immediate needs, like funeral and travel expenses. However, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said that it holds Iran financially responsible.[135]

On 19 January, the bodies of 11 Ukrainian citizens, who died in the crash, were returned to Ukraine in a solemn ceremony at the Boryspil International Airport. The coffins, which were each draped in a Ukrainian flag, were carried one by one from a Ukrainian Il-76 military plane of the 25th Transport Aviation Brigade.[136]

President Zelensky, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov, Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Dmytro Razumkov, and other officials and military servicemen participated in the commemoration.[137]

Reactions

Air traffic

The disaster occurred amid a heightened political crisis in the Persian Gulf, hours after the Iranian military launched 15 missiles towards U.S. military airbases in Iraq in response to the Baghdad International Airport airstrike which killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. In response, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in a notice to airmen (NOTAM), banned all American civil aircraft from flying over Iran, Iraq, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf.[138][139] Although the FAA's NOTAM is not binding on non-U.S. airlines, many airlines take it into consideration when making safety decisions, especially after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.[140][141][142] Several airlines, including Austrian Airlines,[59] Singapore Airlines,[143] KLM,[144] Air France,[145] Air India,[145] SriLankan Airlines,[146] Qantas[140] and Vietnam Airlines[147] began to reroute their flights. Other airlines, such as Lufthansa, Emirates, Flydubai, and Turkish Airlines cancelled some flights to airports in Iran and Iraq and would make further operational changes as necessary.[142][148][149][150]

Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) suspended flights to Tehran indefinitely shortly after the incident, with flights after the day of the crash no longer available.[7] The suspension also complied with a prohibition issued by State Aviation Administration of Ukraine for flights in Iran's airspace for all Ukrainian registration aircraft.[151] Since the crash, additional airlines, Air Astana and SCAT Airlines also re-routed flights that overflew Iran.[152][153] This followed a recommendation by the Kazakhstan Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development, issued to Kazakhstani air companies after the crash, to avoid flying over Iran airspace and/or to cancel flights to Iran.[154] Air Canada rerouted its Toronto-Dubai flight to fly over Egypt and Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq.[155]

Iran

Iran declared 9 January a national day of mourning both for the victims of Flight 752 and for those killed in a stampede at Qasem Soleimani's funeral.[citation needed]

On 11 January, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said they had shot down the aircraft after erroneously identifying it as a hostile target.[156] President Rouhani called the incident an "unforgivable mistake".[157] Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif apologized for the disaster and added that the preliminary conclusion of the armed forces' internal investigation was "human error".[158]

On 17 January, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in his first Friday sermon in eight years, defended the Revolutionary Guards' accidental killing of passengers[dubious ] and praised Operation Martyr Soleimani for giving a "slap on the face" to the United States. His sermon came as public anger mounted against the government for their handling of the incident.[159]

In April, an Iranian MP, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament's legal and judicial committee, said the Iranian military "carried out their duties well", adding that "the movement of the plane was very suspicious" and that no arrests had been made in relation to the incident.[160][161]

A gathering at Amirkabir University of Technology. Above flowers and lit candles a notice reads "What is the cost of lying?"

On 11 January, in response to the government's admission, thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities such as Isfahan, Shiraz, Hamadan and Urmia.[162] Video clips on Twitter showed protesters in Tehran chanting "Death to the dictator", a reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.[163] In Tehran, hundreds of protesters took to the streets to vent anger at officials, calling them liars for having denied the shootdown. Protests took place outside at least two universities: students and protesters gathered at Sharif University, Amirkabir University and Hafez Overpass in Tehran, initially to pay respect to the victims. Protests turned angry in the evening. President Trump tweeted support for the protests.[164][165][166] The mourning Iranians called Qasem Soleimani a murderer and tore up pictures of him, shattering the appearance of national solidarity that had followed his death.[167][168][169][170][171][172]

On 12 January, protests erupted across Iran for a second day; in Tehran and in several other cities, protesters chanted slogans against the leadership and clashed with security forces and Iran's Basiji Force firing tear gas at the protesters.[173] The protesters chanted that they needed more than just resignations, but prosecutions of those responsible as well.[174] Tehran residents told Reuters that police were out in force in the capital on 12 January, with dozens of protesters in Tehran chanting "They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here," and scores of demonstrators gathered in other cities also shown on social media.[175]

On 13 January, the Los Angeles Times reported that Iranian security forces fired both live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.[176]

Iran's exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi said the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was responsible for the downing.[177] Iranian reformist newspaper Etemad ran the banner headline "Apologize and resign", and commented on the "people's demand" for the removal of those responsible for the shootdown.[178]

A Khamenei representative in the elite Revolutionary Guards, told a gathering of Khamenei’s representatives in Iranian universities that the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that chose Khamenei, “... do not appoint the Supreme Leader, rather they discover him [...] In the Islamic system, the office and the legitimacy of the Supreme Leader comes from God, the Prophet and the Shi’ite Imams".[179]

Amnesty International reported on 15 January that on 11 and 12 January Iranian security forces used tear gas, pointed pellets and pepper spray against peaceful demonstrators protesting the government lying about shooting down the passenger plane.[180]

Radio Farda reported that according to a foreign-based Persian website, Zeytoun, Iranian intelligence agents forced families of the victims to give interviews on state TV, declaring their support for the Iranian government or else the government would not deliver the bodies of the victims.[181]

In February, in Toronto, a proposed class action claim was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against Iran, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and various branches of the Iranian military, among others.[182][183] Lawyers of the families of Canadian victims are seeking compensation of at least $1.1 billion.[184][185] On 3 April 2020, the families of the victims formed an association in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to follow the case through legal avenue. The association's spokesman, Hamid Esmaeilion, said the association's aim is, "to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice, including those who ordered it".[186]

Iran's security forces were on alert not to let people turn funerals of the plane crash victims into demonstrations. Nevertheless, in some Iranian cities such as Isfahan and Sanandaj, participants in these funerals have shown their anger and shouted anti-government slogans.[187] The supreme leader Ali Khamenei praised the country's armed forces and described the protesters as those deceived by foreign media.[188]

On 14 January 2020, Iran's judiciary announced that several arrests had been made over the accidental shooting down of the aircraft. The spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, did not name any suspect or say how many had been held.[189][190] In a televised speech, President Rouhani said the judiciary would assemble a special court with a high-ranking judge and tens of experts to oversee the investigation.[191]

On 14 January, it was announced that Iranian authorities had arrested the person who had published a video of the aircraft being shot down. An Iranian journalist based in London who initially posted the footage insisted his source was safe, and that the Iranian authorities had arrested the wrong person.[192] According to Tasnim News Agency and the semi-official Fars News Agency, Iranian authorities are looking for the person(s) who distributed the video.[193]

Ukraine

President Zelensky expressed condolences to the relatives of the victims[194] and cut short his diplomatic visit in Oman. He later added that several aircraft had been prepared in Kiev to travel to Tehran to transport the dead. He declared 9 January a national day of mourning, with Ukrainian flags flying at half-mast on government buildings. He also announced unscheduled inspections on every airliner in the country and asked Ukrainians to refrain from visiting Iran and Iraq for the time being.[195] On 11 January Zelensky said, "Ukraine insists on a full admission of guilt. We expect Iran to bring those responsible to justice, return the bodies, pay compensation and issue an official apology. The investigation must be full, open and continue without delays or obstacles."[196]

On 13 January, Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said five of the countries that had citizens on board the airliner—Canada, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Sweden and an unnamed country—would meet in London on 16 January to discuss possible legal action.[71]

Canada

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau speaks to media

With the large loss of Canadian life, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Transport Minister Marc Garneau both expressed sympathy for the victims. Champagne announced that he was in touch with the Ukrainian government, and Garneau announced that Canada was offering assistance in the investigation.[197] Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted on transparency and justice for the families and loved ones of the victims.[196] On 14 January, Trudeau said tensions and escalation between Iran and the United States were responsible for the shootdown.[198][199]

On March 31, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment of Ralph Goodale as Special Advisor to the Government of Canada.[200] Goodale will "examine lessons learned" from Flight 752, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, Air India Flight 182 and other air disasters and "develop a framework to guide Canada's responses to international air disasters."[201]

United Kingdom

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the repatriation of the bodies of the dead and pledged to work with Canada and Ukraine.[196]

Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Iran, Robert Macaire was arrested on 11 January 2020 during protests in Tehran but released shortly afterwards.[202][203] The ambassador was detained on suspicion that he had joined demonstrations against the government; he denied this and clarified that he had attended an event advertised as a vigil, to pay respects to the victims, and had left five minutes after people started chanting. The British government called his arrest a "flagrant violation of international law".[203] Macaire had been arrested 30 minutes after leaving the vigil he said he had attended, according to The Guardian.[204] The following day Macaire was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to explain his presence during the protest.[205] The U.S. has urged the Iranian regime to issue the British ambassador a formal apology for disregarding his rights and to reiterate that all the rights of diplomats should be respected.[206]

See also

Copyright