Top Iran Guard briefs parliament over downed Ukraine plane after protest
Tehran, Iran - Iran’s top Guards commander briefed parliament on Sunday, a day after the armed forces said a Ukrainian airliner was shot down in error in an admission that sparked an angry demonstration.
His closed-session testimony comes after the temporary arrest on Saturday of Britain’s Ambassador to Tehran, Rob Macaire, shortly after he left a vigil for the air disaster victims that turned into a protest.
On the day after the rally at Tehran’s Amirkabir University, tensions appeared to be mounting again on the streets of the capital, with a heavy police presence notably around the iconic Azadi Square south of the centre.
Riot police armed with water cannon and batons were seen at Amirkabir University, Sharif and Tehran universities as well as Enqelab Square. Around 50 Basij militiamen brandishing paintball guns, potentially to mark protesters to authorities, were also seen near Amirkabir.
The military acknowledged on Saturday that the Ukraine International Airlines plane was mistakenly shot down on Wednesday, killing all 176 people aboard, after denying for days Western claims it was downed by a missile.
The majority of those on the Boeing 737, which slammed into a field shortly after take-off from Tehran, were Iranians and
Canadians, and many were students.
World leaders welcomed Iran’s admission, but Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others have also called for a full and transparent investigation.
The Kiev-bound plane was shot down at a time when Iran’s armed forces were on a heightened state of alert after launching a volley of missiles at US troops stationed in Iraqi military bases.
Iran had vowed to exact ‘severe revenge’ for the January 3 US drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm.
The Guards’ top commander, Major General Hossein Salami, briefed parliament about the general’s killing, Iran’s retaliation and the downing of the airliner, semi-official news agency ISNA said.
At the end of the session, speaker Ali Larijani asked the Majles’ security and foreign policy commission to examine the air disaster and how to prevent such incidents from occurring again, ISNA said.
On Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found ‘missiles fired due to human error’ brought down the Boeing 737. The Guards’ aerospace commander General Amirali Hajizadeh accepted full responsibility.
In the evening, a memorial at Tehran’s Amirkabir University in honour of those killed turned into a demonstration that, correspondents said, was attended by hundreds of students.
They shouted ‘death to liars’ and demanded the resignation and prosecution of those responsible for downing the plane.
Fars news agency said police ‘dispersed’ them as they left the university and blocked streets, causing a traffic jam.
US President Donald Trump warned Iran against cracking down. ‘There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an Internet shutdown’.
Students demonstrate in front of the Amirkabir University, in Tehran on Saturday