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Iran Court Issues Sentences in Downing of Ukraine Flight PS752

Ten Imprisoned After Sham Trial

Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on January 08, 2023 as Iranian-Canadians marked 3rd anniversary of the downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752. © 2023 Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto/AP Images

On April 16, after a trial lacking any transparency, the Tehran Military Court issued prison sentences for 10 members of the Iranian armed forces who were charged with the 2020 downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 passengers and crew.

The trial’s main defendant, the commander of the Tor M1 surface-to-air missile defense system that shot down the plane, was sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment, of which 10 years are enforceable. The remaining defendants were sentenced to one to three years in prison.

On January 8, 2020, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian civilian airliner after it took off from Tehran. Iranian authorities said “human error” by a missile operator led to launching two surface-to-air missiles at the plane.

But authorities never disclosed critical evidence supporting the claim and have not provided any details of their judicial investigation to the families of the victims.

The investigation and judicial process has been marred by a lack of transparency and government abuses against family members of victims. On January 14, 2020, Iranian authorities pledged to investigate the attack, but they did not share details about their investigations, and they did not show key evidence to Ukraine or other countries whose citizens were killed.

On March 17, 2021, Iran’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Board published its final report on the incident, in which it said, based on information from the military, that Iranian missiles were launched at the plane due to a 105-degree miscalibration of the launcher’s radar. The report did not clarify inconsistencies in the Iranian government’s findings raised by various independent observers, including the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions in a detailed letter to the Iranian government.

Also, Iranian authorities have harassed and intimidated victims’ family members. Family members said that in several instances, the authorities interfered with burial and memorial services, pressuring families to accept the government’s “martyrdom” status for their loved ones, and published photos and videos without the permission of the families at services.

On April 18, the International Coordination and Response Group for the flight’s victims, representing Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine, issued a joint statement: “Neither the trials nor the verdicts announced this week brings truth or justice to the families of the victims, as the entire process – starting with Iran’s biased investigation into the downing –lacked the necessary impartiality and transparency.”

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