Iran hearings start over shooting down of Ukrainian airliner
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Iranian military court Sunday began a hearing over the military’s shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in 2020 that killed 176 people, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The report said ten military personnel — suspects from” various ranks” — were present at the session. Families of victims and their lawyers also attended the session, representing 103 legal complaints over the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines flight number PS752.
The report quoted the unidentified judge as saying he hopes the court would issue a “precise, quick and serious” verdict, based on a “reasonable, fair, transparent, clear-cut and strong” procedure.
The court heard statements by lawyers of victim’s families, and the report said the next session will be announced following further investigations by the prosecutor.
The report did not identify the suspects. Sunday’s session was the first hearing since the incident, nearly 22 months ago.
In April, a prosecutor said ten officials have been indicted over the case. That came a month after Iran faced withering international criticism for releasing a final report that blamed human error but named no-one responsible.
In January 2020, following three days of denial in the face of mounting evidence, Iran finally acknowledged that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly downed the Ukrainian plane with two surface-to-air missiles.
In preliminary reports on the disaster in 2020, Iranian authorities blamed an air defense operator who they said mistook the Boeing 737-800 for an American cruise missile.
It happened on the same day Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on US troops in Iraq in retaliation for an American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.
Later, Guard officials publicly apologized for the incident. But the hesitancy of Iran to elaborate on what happened shows the power the force wields.