Fam­i­lies of those killed on Flight 752 de­mand an­swers

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - JEFF LABINE With files from The Cana­dian Press jlabine@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/jef­flabine

ED­MON­TON Fam­i­lies of the vic­tims of Ukrainian Flight 752, which was shot down by an Ira­nian mis­sile in Jan­uary, are re­new­ing calls for an­swers and ac­count­abil­ity from the Mid­dle East­ern coun­try.

Dur­ing an on­line news con­fer­ence on Tues­day, Toronto’s Hamed Esmaeilion, whose daugh­ter and wife were among the 176 peo­ple killed on Jan. 8 when a sur­faceto-air mis­sile struck a pas­sen­ger plane shortly af­ter take­off in Tehran, said more in­ter­na­tional pres­sure — in­clud­ing from the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment — is needed to hold Iran ac­count­able.

Six months later, he said, there are still unan­swered ques­tions, in­clud­ing who de­cided to keep the airspace open for civil­ian traf­fic amid mil­i­tary ten­sion be­tween Iran and the U.S., how a civil­ian plane was mis­taken for a cruise mis­sile, how the cruise mis­sile reached Tehran un­de­tected and whether there have been at­tempts to tam­per with the black boxes.

Esmaeilion said if Iran doesn’t co­op­er­ate in an­swer­ing these ques­tions, the mat­ter should be brought to the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice.

“We need to know more,” he said. “We are frus­trated. Fam­i­lies (have been) de­stroyed from all the mis­in­for­ma­tion and mis­di­rec­tion from Ira­nian of­fi­cials. We need more in­ter­na­tional pres­sure and more pres­sure from the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to force Iran to com­ply with obli­ga­tions.”

Fifty-five Cana­di­ans in­clud­ing 13 Ed­mon­to­ni­ans as well as 30 per­ma­nent res­i­dents were on board.

Ira­nian of­fi­cials ini­tially de­nied claims by Canada and other Western coun­tries that the plane was shot down but days later said it was an ac­ci­dent caused by hu­man er­ror af­ter the air­craft flew to­ward a mil­i­tary po­si­tion.

The fam­i­lies are ques­tion­ing this ac­count as an­other flight took off about an hour be­fore Flight 752.

Ten­sions were high in the re­gion fol­low­ing the Amer­i­can-led killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, on Jan. 3. Soleimani, a tac­ti­cian, is cred­ited with help­ing the Iraqis de­feat the ex­trem­ist Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant, or ISIL.

Esmaeilion said the Ira­nian of­fi­cials have done a lot of harm and ac­cused au­thor­i­ties of loot­ing the bod­ies.

“No one knows where my wife’s wed­ding ring and my daugh­ter’s pink doll is,” he said. “The bod­ies of these in­no­cent peo­ple were looted and im­prop­erly and in­de­cently in­ter­fered with.”

At the mo­ment, Iran is lead­ing its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the crash as well as Ukraine with Canada of­fer­ing tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Hamed Esmaeilion says he has not got his wife Parisa Egh­balian’s wed­ding ring nor his daugh­ter Reera Esmaeilion’s doll back af­ter they were killed when Ukrainian Flight 752 was shot down by Iran on Jan. 8. He is meet­ing For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Fran­cois-philippe Cham­pagne next week to dis­cuss the crash in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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