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Ukraine Asks Iran to Return Black Boxes From Crashed Plane

Ukraine Asks Iran to Return Black Boxes From Crashed Plane

Wednesday, 15 January, 2020 - 09:30
People analyze the fragments and remains of the Ukraine International Airlines plane that crashed outside Tehran | AFP
Kiev- Asharq Al-Awsat

Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office and security service have asked Iranian authorities to give Kiev black boxes from the crashed Ukrainian plane, the prosecutors' office said on Wednesday.

A top Ukraine security official said this week that a senior investigator from Iran was expected to visit Ukraine soon and determine whether a Ukrainian laboratory would be suitable to work on the black boxes.

Meanwhile, new video footage has emerged showing two Iranian missiles tearing through the night sky and hitting the Ukrainian passenger plane, sending the aircraft down in flames, and killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

The projectiles were fired 30 seconds apart and explain why the plane's transponder was not working as it hurtled to the ground -- it was disabled by the first strike, before being hit by a second, said the New York Times, which published the verified security camera footage Tuesday.

The blurry film, shot from a rooftop in a village four miles from an Iranian military site, shows the Kiev-bound plane on fire and circling back to Tehran's airport, the Times said. Minutes later, the aircraft exploded and crashed.

Iran had for days denied Western claims that the Boeing 737 had been downed by its missiles.

Tehran came clean on Saturday when Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh acknowledged a missile operator had mistaken the Ukraine International Airlines plane for a cruise missile and opened fire.

The incident happened when Iran's armed forces were on heightened alert after launching a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US troops in retaliation for the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani on January 3.

Iran has struggled to contain the fallout over its handling of the air disaster and the tragedy has seen hundreds of angry protesters, most of them students, take to the streets.

Iranian social media posts urged citizens to take to the streets for a fifth day on Wednesday, after public anger erupted following the belated admission by the authorities that they had shot down the passenger plane in error.

Protesters, with students at the forefront, have staged daily rallies in Tehran and other cities since Saturday, when the authorities admitted their role in bringing down the Ukrainian plane after days of denials.

Some protests have been met with a violent crackdown. Videos on social media have shown people being beaten by riot police and shocked with electric batons. They also recorded gunfire and blood on the ground. Most protests flared at night.

“We’re coming to the streets,” one posting circulating on social media said on Wednesday, urging people to join nationwide demonstrations against a “thieving and corrupt government”.

Thousands of protesters have been shown in videos gathering in the past four days in cities across Iran. Many have been outside universities, while Tehran’s central Azadi Square has been a focus. But the full scale of protests and unrest is difficult to determine due restrictions on independent reporting.

Police had denied shooting at protesters and say officers were told to show restraint. The judiciary said it had arrested 30 people but would show tolerance to “legal protests”.

Iranians were outraged the military took days to admit it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight 752, carrying mainly Iranians or dual national. They asked why the plane had been allowed to take off at a time of high tension.

- 'Real rift' -

Recent protests have been much smaller than nationwide demonstrations against fuel price hikes that turned deadly in November.

But one commentator said the latest rallies showed there was a "real rift between the people and the authorities".

In another sign of growing dissent, a group of artists canceled their participation in the Fajr festival, held each year on the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, according to Hamshahri newspaper.

President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday Iran's judiciary "must form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts... The whole world will be watching."

"Anyone who should be punished must be punished".

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