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Iranians Protest for 4th Day over Ukraine Plane Crash as Authorities Make Arrests

Iranians Protest for 4th Day over Ukraine Plane Crash as Authorities Make Arrests

Tuesday, 14 January, 2020 - 12:45
In this photograph taken on Jan. 11, Iranian police officers take position while protesters gather in front of Amir Kabir University in Tehran, to remember victims of the Ukraine plane crash. (AP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Iranian protesters gathered for a fourth day in Tehran on Tuesday to demonstrate against the way the authorities have handled last week’s accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner, videos posted on social media showed.

“Where is justice?” a crowd chanted at one university in the capital, one of the videos showed, continuing daily protests that erupted after the Iranian military admitted on Saturday that it had brought down the plane in error.

The judiciary said 30 people had been detained in the protests, and that some were released, without elaborating further. An Iranian film director who had called for protests in Tehran's Azadi, or Freedom, Square is among those released.

Iran, which initially dismissed allegations that a missile had brought down the plane, acknowledged only on Saturday — three days after and in the face of mounting evidence — that its Revolutionary Guard had shot down the plane by mistake as the force braced for a possible military confrontation with the United States.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said “extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested.” His statement on the judiciary's website did not say how many individuals had been detained or name them.

Iran's president on Tuesday also called for a special court to be set up to probe the incident.

“The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech televised in Iran. “This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court.”

Iran shot down the plane as its forces were on alert for possible US retaliation after Iran launched ballistic missiles on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq. No one was hurt in that attack, which was carried out in response to the stunning killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad.

The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians — including many Iranians with dual citizenship — and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. There were several children among the passengers, including an infant.

The incident raised questions about why Iran did not shut down its international airport or airspace the day it was on alert for US military retaliation.

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