Friday 24 January 2020

Arrests made over shooting down of Ukrainian plane that killed 176 people

Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Independent.ie Newdesk

Iran's judiciary says arrests have been made over the shooting down of a Ukrainian plane that killed 176 people.

It came as the country's president called for a special court to be set up to probe the downing last week of the passenger jet by Iranian forces just after take-off from Tehran, killing all onboard.

A judiciary spokesman said: "Extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested."

He did not say how many individuals have been detained or name them.

Rising tension: An Iranian man confronts riot police during a protest outside Tehran's Amir Kabir University. Photo: AFP
Rising tension: An Iranian man confronts riot police during a protest outside Tehran's Amir Kabir University. Photo: AFP

Iran, which initially dismissed allegations that a missile had brought down the jetliner, acknowledged, three days after Wednesday's downing and in the face of mounting evidence, that its Revolutionary Guard had shot down the Ukrainian plane by mistake.

President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech televised in Iran on Tuesday: "This is not an ordinary case.

"The entire the world will be watching this court."

Meanwhile, a leaked recording appeared to show a Revolutionary Guard officer complaining that Mr Rouhani's administration was hanging them out to dry as they faced widespread fury over the incident.

The recording, published by the Iranian opposition site Pyk Net, purported to capture on film an unnamed Revolutionary Guard commander addressing comrades, urging them to weather the political storm.

"The statement by the government admitting the cause of air crash was disgraceful," he said. "The statement should not have blamed the entire Revolutionary Guard and could have just said it was the fault of one individual."

Rivals: Hassan Rouhani's supporters vented ire at the military. Photo: AFP via Getty
Rivals: Hassan Rouhani's supporters vented ire at the military. Photo: AFP via Getty

The commander went on to suggest the government could have waited "two or three months" before announcing the real cause of the crash, to allow the Guard more time to bask in public support after the killing of Qasem Soleimani and the missile barrage fired against US forces in Iraq.

He added that the Rouhani administration was failing to show gratitude for crushing anti-government protests last year. Several hundred civilians died in the crackdown.

"The November protests were caused by the Rouhani government but the Revolutionary Guard sacrificed itself and put them down, but this time the government is passive in the face of the attacks on the Revolutionary Guard," he said.

Two female protesters were reportedly shot and wounded in Tehran on Sunday night, while students protested yesterday at Sharif university in Tehran, widely considered one of Iran's top academic institutions.

Tensions between the relatively moderate government and the hard line Revolutionary Guard have been building for years as Mr Rouhani advocated diplomacy with the West and Guard commanders called for continuing isolation.

But faced with public anger over the fate of Ukrainian Flight PS752 - and with elections looming in February - the sides appeared to be at particularly bitter odds.

Riot police faced down protesters denouncing Iran's clerical rulers yesterday, amid anger after authorities acknowledged shooting down a passenger plane by accident.

Video from inside Iran showed students yesterday chanting slogans including "Clerics get lost!" outside universities in the city of Isfahan and in Tehran, where riot police were filmed taking up positions on the streets of the capital.

Images emerged from the previous two days of protests showing wounded people being carried and pools of blood on the ground, while the sound of gunfire could be heard.

Authorities denied that police had opened fire. US President Donald Trump, who raised the stakes on January 3 by ordering the killing of Iran's most powerful military commander, tweeted to Iran's leaders: "don't kill your protesters."

Tehran has acknowledged shooting down the Ukrainian jetliner by mistake on Wednesday, killing 176 people, hours after it had fired at US targets in Iraq to retaliate for the killing of General Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.

Iranian public anger, rumbling for days as Iran repeatedly denied it was to blame for the plane crash, erupted into protests on Saturday when the military admitted its role.

PA Media

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News