Iran announces arrests in plane crash as Canada, allies eye London meeting

Clay Curtis
January 14, 2020

Arrests have been made in connection with the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane near Tehran, Iran's judiciary has announced, following President Hassan Rouhani's call for a special probe into the deadly accident.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Tuesday the downing of the Ukrainian plane was an "unforgivable error" and Iran will punish all those responsible for the accidental shooting, adding that the "tragic event" would be investigated thoroughly.

Rouhani stressed that the fact that the Iranian military had admitted to downing the plane was a "good first step".

"All relevant authorities had assured us there had been no missile involved in the downing of the plane", said Ali Rabiei, a government spokesman. In a joint statement, the four countries said they still seek an agreement with Tehran and are not part of the American "maximum pressure" campaign.

"Iran must take full responsibility", Trudeau said.

Trudeau said on January 13 in an emotive speech that those people would be safe at home with their families now were it not for the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran.

"The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts", Mr Rouhani said.

The country had been at its "highest level of readiness" after launching a missile attack on bases in Iraq in retaliation for the US assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

At that night, the air defense was at the highest level of alert following IRGC's missile attacks against a United States base in Iraq, which came in retaliation for the US' assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

It advised ships to refuse to allow Iranian forces to board but not to forcibly resist them, and to immediately contact the US Fifth Fleet.

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Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 was brought down shortly after taking off from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.

The authorities' handling of the air disaster has also angered some Iranians.

Tensions in the region have been heightened since a US airstrike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

The protestors have criticized the government for denying the military shootdown for three days after it happened, and for failing to close Iranian airports and air space at a time when Iran was firing missiles at US targets and anticipating a retaliation.

The demonstrations are the latest twist in one of the most serious increases in tension between Washington and Tehran since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

About 30 protesters, who took to the streets after the admission over the plane, have also been arrested, Esmaili said, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

"He also said that ultimately it's the USA that's responsible for the heightened level of tension, again referring to Trump's threat to target 52 sites but added that this isn't an excuse for the military and other people", Baig said.

He added that one of the black boxes had already been sent to France for decoding.

Trudeau said he has spoken with U.S. President Donald Trump on the need to de-escalate tensions in the region and noted that Washington gave Canada no advance notice of its strike against Gen. Qassem Soleimani, which set in motion Iran's missile strikes against coalition forces in Iraq, including Canadian personnel.

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