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Canadian investigators visit Ukrainian airliner crash site in Iran, demand ‘full cooperation’

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crash wreckage. (Mehr News Agency/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Canada says its investigators have visited the site of plane crash near Tehran that included 57 Canadian fatalities among the 176 people killed in the tragedy.

Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau on January 15 said the country’s investigators have not yet been allowed access to the flight and cockpit recorders of the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Boeing 737-800 that had just taken off from Tehran en route to Kyiv on January 8 when it was shot down by up to two Iranian missiles.

Iran has issued visas to a team of Canadian officials, including two specialists from the Transportation Safety Board, hoping to determine how and why Iran’s military shot down the airliner, killing all on board.

Most of the victims were Iranian and Canadian nationals, with smaller numbers of Ukrainians, Afghans, Swedes, Britons, and Germans.

“What we have been told by the Iranians is that we will be allowed to participate in not only the decoding of the [black] boxes, but also the analysis,” Garneau told an Ottawa news conference.

“We’re standing by at the moment to find out where that is going to happen. We have not had that signal.”

Garneau said he and foreign ministers from Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, and Britain are scheduled to meet on January 16 to press for “full cooperation from Iranian authorities.”

“Canada will not accept a situation where we feel that we’re not being given the information that we’re looking for,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, Canada is going to get to the very bottom of this.”

Tehran originally denied its forces shot down Flight PS752 but, as evidence mounted, the country’s military on January 11 admitted the Ukrainian plane was shot down “unintentionally” by an antiaircraft missile.

The tragedy occurred with Iran’s air-defense forces on high alert following an Iranian ballistic-missile attack a few hours earlier against U.S. forces in Iraq.

The government’s action and denials have angered many Iranians, leading to protests against the clerical establishment.

President Hassan Rohani on January 15 called for national unity, as Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said people have been demonstrating “against the fact that they were lied to for a couple of days.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International accused Iranian security personnel of using “unlawful force” against peaceful protesters who had gathered in Tehran and other cities on January on 11-12.

Video footage, photographs, and testimonies from victims and eyewitnesses indicate that security forces targeted protesters with rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, and air-gun pellets, according to the London-based human rights watchdog.

It said demonstrators were also kicked, punched, beaten with batons, and arbitrarily arrested.