Iran makes first arrests in Ukrainian plane downing

Iran makes first arrests in Ukrainian plane downing

Hassan Rouhani, President

Tehran, January 14

Iran announced on Tuesday its first arrests over the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner last week, as it struggles to contain the fallout from the disaster that sparked three days of protests.

The Ukraine International Airlines plane was brought down by a missile shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on-board. Iran has come under mounting international pressure to ensure its investigation into the tragedy is full and transparent. The authorities’ handling of the air disaster has also angered some Iranians.

‘Guilty can’t get away’

For our people, it is very important in this incident that anyone who was at fault or negligent at any level face justice. Officials should explain why it took so long for the authorities to announce the real cause of the air disaster.—Hassan Rouhani, President

Videos posted online on Monday purported to show hundreds of protesters taking to the streets for the third consecutive night, apparently shouting slogans against the Islamic republic. Protesters chanted “Death to dictator” on Sunday, a rare move for a country, where media usually refers to demonstrators as “rioters” and refrains from publishing such slogans.

The protests have been much smaller than nationwide demonstrations against fuel price hikes that turned deadly in November.

Tehran for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence that the Boeing 737 had been downed by a missile. It came clean on Saturday when Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh acknowledged a missile operator had mistaken the plane for a cruise missile and opened fire independently.

At a televised news conference, the judiciary announced the first arrests had been made over the calamitous blunder, without specifying how many. “Extensive investigations have been carried out and some people have been arrested,” said spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

The announcement came shortly after President Hassan Rouhani said everyone responsible for the disaster must be punished.

“For our people, it is very important in this incident that anyone who was at fault or negligent at any level face justice,” Rouhani said. “Anyone who should be punished must be punished. The judiciary must form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts... The whole world will be watching,” Rouhani said. Canada's Transportation Safety Board said its investigators flying to Tehran would be granted access to the wreckage and black box the downed airliner. — AFP

EU states launch process disputing Iran’s nuclear compliance

  • Three EU countries on Tuesday launched a process charging Iran with failing to observe the terms of the 2015 deal.
  • A move that curtailed its nuclear programme and sparked threats from Tehran. Britain, France and Germany insisted they remained committed to the agreement.
  • But British PM Boris Johnson indicated he might prefer a comprehensive accord negotiated with US President Donald Trump.

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