A grief-stricken man holds a portrait of one of 176 victims in the shooting down of a Ukrainian jetliner in this file photo.(AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)

A grief-stricken man holds a portrait of one of 176 victims in the shooting down of a Ukrainian jetliner in this file photo.(AP Photo / Efrem Lukatsky)

Iran prosecutor says 10 indicted for Ukraine plane shootdown

Ten officials have been indicted in Iran over the 2020 military shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed 176 people, a prosecutor said Tuesday, an announcement coming just as Tehran begins indirect negotiations with the West over its collapsed nuclear deal with world powers.

More than 100 of the 176 victims — at least one of whom was pregnant — had ties to Canada, and 55 were Canadian citizens.

The timing of the announcement comes after Iran faced withering international criticism last month for releasing a final report into the shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines flight No. PS752 that blamed human error, but named no one responsible for the incident.

Tehran military prosecutor Gholamabbas Torki similarly avoided naming those responsible when he announced the indictments Tuesday while handing over his office to Nasser Seraj. The semiofficial ISNA news agency and the Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency both reported his remarks.

“The indictment of the case of the Ukrainian plane was also issued and a serious and accurate investigation was carried out and indictments were issued for 10 people who were at fault,” Mizan quoted Torki as saying, without elaborating.

Following three days of denial in January 2020 in the face of mounting evidence, Iran finally acknowledged that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly downed the Ukrainian jetliner with two surface-to-air missiles. In preliminary reports on the disaster last year, Iranian authorities blamed an air defence operator who they said mistook the Boeing 737-800 for an American cruise missile.

Last month, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said Iranian officials failed to provide evidence that Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by mistake, leaving key questions unanswered as Iran’s military effectively investigated itself.

The regime’s civil aviation body released a final report that blamed “human error” for two surface-to-air missiles fired at the jetliner minutes after takeoff from Tehran on Jan. 8 last year.

The Canadian government rejected the report outright, describing it as “incomplete” and devoid of “hard facts or evidence.”

The shootdown happened the same day Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for an American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general. While Guard officials publicly apologized for the incident, the hesitancy of Iran to elaborate on what happened in the incident shows the power the force wields.

Following the release of Iran’s final investigative report, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lambasted the findings as a “cynical attempt to hide the true causes of the downing of our passenger aircraft.” He accused Iran of conducting a “biased” probe into the disaster that resulted in “deceptive” conclusions.

Many on the flight planned to connect in Kyiv, Ukraine to fly onto Canada, which is home to a large Iranian population. Canada’s foreign and transport ministers similarly criticized the report, saying that it “has no hard facts or evidence” and “makes no attempt to answer critical questions about what truly happened.”

The announcement came just hours before Iran and the five world powers remaining in its atomic accord meet in Vienna, where the U.S. is due to start indirect talks with Tehran.

___ With files from the Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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