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Iran announces arrests after shooting down Ukrainian airliner

Ukraine International Airlines jet. (PeakPx/Released)
January 14, 2020

Iranian authorities announced on Tuesday that arrests have been made in connection to the mistaken downing of a Ukrainian airliner taking off from Tehran, which killed all 176 people on board.

Iran’s Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced the arrests after “extensive investigations,” according to the Associated Press. Iran’s Judiciary has not revealed exactly how many have been arrested at this point.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Tuesday that a special court should be convened with “a ranking judge and dozens of experts” to investigate the incident.

The airliner had 167 passengers and nine crew members aboard. Some 82 Iranian citizens were among those on the plane when it was brought down by an Iranian missile.

The plane was brought down only hours after Iran had fired more than a dozen missiles at U.S. positions in neighboring Iraq.

Iran initially denied responsibility for the downing of the airliner. Video did eventually come out showing what appeared to be missiles launching up into the sky and striking the plane as it flew over Tehran.

Iran did eventually admit to shooting down the plane, citing “human error” and heightened concern of U.S. retaliatory strikes for its earlier missile attacks.

On Saturday, Iranian Aerospace Force commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh did take specific responsibility for the missiles that brought down the airliner on Tuesday night. Hajizadeh, who commands most of Iran’s missile arsenal, said he “wished for death” when he learned of the mistake.

“All other organizations including the airport and civil aviation did their job correctly. All the blame is on us,” Hajizadeh said.

On Tuesday, however, Rouhani said: “the responsibility falls on more than just one person.”

“There are others, too, and I want that this issue is expressed honestly,” Rouhani continued.

Rouhani raised the stakes for the case, saying the world would be watching.

Among the passengers aboard were also 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed interest in having Canada play a key role in the investigation into the downed plane.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has publicly called for a full investigation and admission of guilt from Iran and compensation for the downed airliner.

Protesters have taken the streets in Tehran and have demonstrated against the Iranian government since it initially admitted to shooting down the airliner on Saturday.

“Resignation is not enough,” protesters reportedly chanted in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir University amid demands for a trial for those responsible for shooting down the airliner.