Iran ar­rests in plane down­ing

Cana­di­ans alive to­day if not for ten­sions: Trudeau

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE -

TEHRAN, Iran, Jan 14, (AP): Iran said Tues­day that au­thor­i­ties have made ar­rests for the ac­ci­den­tal shoot­down of a Ukrainian pas­sen­ger plane, which killed all 176 peo­ple on board and set off protests in the coun­try de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity af­ter of­fi­cials ini­tially con­cealed the cause of the crash.

Iran’s Ju­di­ciary spokesman Gho­lamhos­sein Es­maili said “some in­di­vid­u­als” were ar­rested af­ter “ex­ten­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tions.” His state­ment on the ju­di­ciary’s web­site did not say how many peo­ple had been de­tained or name those ar­rested.

Iran at first dis­missed al­le­ga­tions that a mis­sile had brought down the plane, but in the face of mount­ing ev­i­dence of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged on Satur­day — three days af­ter — that its Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard had shot down the plane by mis­take as the force braced for a pos­si­ble mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with the United States.

The plane, en route from Tehran to the Ukrainian cap­i­tal of Kyiv, was car­ry­ing 167 pas­sen­gers and nine crew mem­bers from sev­eral coun­tries, in­clud­ing 82 Ira­ni­ans and 57 Cana­di­ans, many of whom were Ira­ni­ans with dual cit­i­zen­ship. There were sev­eral chil­dren among the pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing an in­fant.

Iran’s pres­i­dent on Tues­day called for a spe­cial court with “a rank­ing judge and dozens of ex­perts” to be set up to probe the in­ci­dent.

“The re­spon­si­bil­ity falls on more than just one per­son,” Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani said in a tele­vised speech, adding that those found cul­pa­ble “should be pun­ished.”

“There are oth­ers, too, and I want that this is­sue is ex­pressed hon­estly,” he said, with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

Rouhani called the in­ci­dent “a painful and un­for­giv­able” mis­take and promised that his ad­min­is­tra­tion would pur­sue the case “by all means.”

“This is not an or­di­nary case. The en­tire world will be watch­ing this court,” he said.

Ten­sions have been es­ca­lat­ing since Pres­i­dent Donald Trump pulled the US out of Iran’s 2015 nu­clear deal with world pow­ers, then reim­posed sanc­tions that had been lifted un­der the ac­cord.

The deal has quickly un­rav­eled since then, with Iran steadily break­ing away from lim­its on its nu­clear pro­gram and Europe un­able to find ways to keep Tehran com­mit­ted. The US sanc­tions have dev­as­tated Iran’s econ­omy. On Tues­day, Bri­tain, France and Ger­many trig­gered the so­called “dis­pute mech­a­nism” ac­tion that paves way for pos­si­ble fur­ther sanc­tions in re­sponse to Iran’s moves.

Ten­sions sharply es­ca­lated fur­ther af­ter on Jan 3, when a US airstrike killed Iran’s most pow­er­ful com­man­der, Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard Gen Qassem Soleimani, in Bagh­dad.

In re­sponse, Iran launched bal­lis­tic mis­siles on mil­i­tary bases hous­ing US troops in Iraq to avenge Soleimani’s killing. The Ukrainian plane was shot down in Tehran as Ira­nian forces were on alert for pos­si­ble US re­tal­i­a­tion.

While Rouhani pointed to mis­takes and neg­li­gence, he also re­peated the govern­ment’s line that the plane tragedy was ul­ti­mately rooted in US ag­gres­sion.

“It was the US that made for an ag­i­tated en­vi­ron­ment. It was the US that cre­ated an un­usual sit­u­a­tion. It was the US that threat­ened and took our beloved (Soleimani),” he said.

Rouhani called the govern­ment’s ad­mis­sion that Ira­nian forces shot down the plane a “first good step.”

He added that Ira­nian ex­perts who re­trieved the Ukrainian plane’s flight recorder, the so-called black box, have sent it to France for anal­y­sis.

Gen Amir Ali Ha­jizadeh, the head of the Guard’s aero­space di­vi­sion, said over the week­end his unit ac­cepts full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the shoot­down. He said when he learned about the down­ing of the plane, “I wished I was dead.”

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said the vic­tims of the Ukrainian jet­liner shot down by a mis­sile that killed 176 peo­ple in­clud­ing 57 Cana­di­ans would be alive right now if ten­sions had not es­ca­lated in the re­gion.

Trudeau has been care­ful to avoid blam­ing US Pres­i­dent Donald Trump for the deaths of the pas­sen­gers af­ter Trump or­dered the killing of Gen Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top gen­eral, in a US airstrike in Bagh­dad.

“If there was no es­ca­la­tion re­cently in the re­gion, those Cana­di­ans would be right now home with their fam­i­lies. This is some­thing that hap­pens when you have con­flict and the war. In­no­cents bear the brunt of it,” Trudeau said in an in­ter­view with Global News Tele­vi­sion.

Some Cana­di­ans in­clud­ing a lead­ing cor­po­rate leader in the coun­try blame Trump in part for the deaths. Trudeau has spo­ken to Trump.

Peo­ple gather for a can­dle­light vigil to re­mem­ber the vic­tims of the Ukraine plane crash, at the gate of Amri Kabir Univer­sity that some of the vic­tims of the crash were for­mer stu­dents of, in Tehran, Iran on Jan 11. (AP)

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