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Iran makes arrests in plane shootdown; police crack down on protests

17 Comments
By Parisa Hafezi and Babak Dehghanpisheh

Iran said on Tuesday it had arrested people accused of a role in shooting down a Ukrainian airliner and had also detained 30 people involved in protests that have swept the nation for four days since the military belatedly admitted its error.

Wednesday's downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752, which killed all 176 people aboard, has created a new crisis for the Islamic Republic's clerical rulers.

President Hassan Rouhani promised a thorough investigation into the "unforgivable error" in an address on Tuesday. It was the latest in a series of apologies by the leadership that has done little to quell public anger.

Britain, France and Germany also increased diplomatic pressure on Iran, launching a dispute mechanism to challenge Tehran for breaching limits on its nuclear program under an agreement which Washington abandoned in 2018.

Tehran has faced an escalating confrontation with the West and a wave of unrest since the United States killed Iran's most powerful military commander in a drone strike on Jan 3.

Iran shot down the plane on Wednesday when its military was on high alert, hours after firing missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq. It admitted the mistake on Saturday after days of denials.

New security camera footage shows two missiles, fired 30 seconds apart, hitting the plane after takeoff, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

U.S. intelligence officials said on Jan. 9 that the heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles were detected near the aircraft.

A person who posted a video online last week of a missile striking the plane has been taken into custody by the elite Revolutionary Guards, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

In Iraq, a military camp at Taji, north of Baghdad, was hit by Katyusha rockets Tuesday night but no casualties were reported, an Iraqi military statement said.

Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said some of those accused of having a role in the plane disaster had been arrested, although he did not say how many or identify them.

Since the official admission, protesters, many of them students, have held daily demonstrations, chanting "Clerics get lost!" and calling for the removal of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in power for more than 30 years.

Police have responded to some protests with a violent crackdown, video posts on social media showed, with police beating protesters with batons, wounded people being carried, pools of blood on the streets and the sound of gunfire.

A video that emerged on Tuesday showed an officer using an electric baton to shock a man as he writhed on the ground.

Iran's police have denied firing at protesters and said officers were ordered to act with restraint. The judiciary said 30 people had been detained in the unrest but authorities would show tolerance towards "legal protests".

Protests on Tuesday appeared peaceful, with scores gathering at two Tehran universities. "Where is justice?" some shouted.

The extent of the unrest is difficult to assess because of limits on independent reporting. Demonstrations tend to gather momentum into the night.

The domestic unrest triggered by the plane crash comes just two months after the most violent crackdown on protests since the revolution. The authorities killed hundreds of people to put down an uprising in November when demonstrators torched banks and petrol stations.

Adding to international tension, the judiciary spokesman branded Britain's ambassador an "undesirable element", after he was briefly detained on Saturday, accused of inciting protests. The ambassador said he had been attending a vigil for victims.

London said it had not been notified of any move to expel its envoy, Rob Macaire, and said such a step would be regrettable. Iran's Foreign Ministry, rather than the judiciary, would be responsible for any decision to expel him.

London hosts a meeting on Thursday of Canada, Ukraine, Britain and other nations who had citizens on the plane. Ukraine said they would consider legal action against Tehran.

Rouhani said the government would be accountable to Iranians and those nations who lost citizens. Most of those on board the flight were Iranians or dual nationals.

A team of Canadian experts joining the investigation visited the crash site on Tuesday, an Iranian news agency reported. It followed a meeting in Tehran between experts from Canada, which had 57 citizens on the flight, Ukraine and Iran.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked for Kiev's help in talking to Iran about identifying the bodies of the Canadian citizens who were killed, the Ukrainian president's office said.

The shootdown and subsequent unrest comes amid one of the biggest escalations in tensions between Tehran and Washington since 1979.

Missiles launched at a U.S. base in Iraq killed an American contractor in December, an attack Washington blamed on an Iran-backed group. Confrontation eventually led to the U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3 that killed General Qassem Soleimani, architect of Iran's regional network of proxy militias.

Iran's government was already reeling from the reimposition of sanctions by the United States, which quit an agreement with world powers under which Tehran would secure sanctions relief in return for scaling back its nuclear program.

Since Washington withdrew, Tehran has stepped back from its nuclear commitments and has said it would no longer recognize limits on enriching uranium.

After months of threatening to act, European signatories to the deal, France, Britain and Germany, activated the agreement's dispute mechanism on Tuesday. Iran criticized the move and said it wanted constructive steps to save the nuclear deal.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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America took 4 years to admit to shot down a civilian airliner in 1988.

It took Iran less than 4 days.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

Uh oh "crack down"

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Iran said on Tuesday it had arrested people accused of a role in shooting down a Ukrainian airliner

This is not an individual crime, it's a crime by a government. They're looking for scapegoats.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

It took Iran less than 4 days.

Given the Russian government's enmity toward Ukraine and the reality it was a Ukrainian aircraft blown apart by the missile, do you think Iran's partner Russia encouraged Iran to take full responsibility so Russia wouldn't be blamed?

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Russia wouldn't be blamed?

I'm also wondering why not a single news outlet has dared to involve Russia and its technology in their reporting. This, like MH17 is a massive failure of the IFF system used by the missile system. Yet no calls to ban it.

Yes there are human errors, like drawing up overlapping missile defence boundaries with civilian air space, and not communicating with civilian traffic controllers before deploying missiles etc., but at the end of the day, IFF failed.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

BB - Not sure what the US has to do with this.

30+ yrs ago. President Reagan (i.e. Commander in Chief) wrote a letter a few days later apologizing to the Iranian Govt. It wasn't 4 yrs.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1988/07/06/reagan-apologized-to-iran-for-downing-of-jetliner/9523c6dc-a244-4b3b-90e9-054168d98c79/

The truth is bad enough. No need to make things up. Should we bring up KAL902, KAL007, YA-BAM, YA-BAL, Malaysia Air #17 or not?

Russia has no responsibility in this incident. Neither does the USA.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Like the Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman now the leaders of Iran are going to bring forth scapegoats.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Like the Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman now the leaders of Iran are going to bring forth scapegoats.

This is going to be a first, are usually never agree with you on anything, but on this one I think you’re right.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

 a massive failure of the IFF system used by the missile system. Yet no calls to ban it.

Thousands of planes cross Russian airspace every day. If you fly to Europe from Japan you'll be flying over Russia.

A civilian airliner has never been accidentally shot down over Russian airspace.

KAL007 was not an accidental misidentification, it was known to be a civilian target but was heading over highly restricted space and was thus shot down.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Iran's regime has to look tough. Either way, whatever the outcome - Trump is obviously looking for excuses for a war (he IS a bully) and he's going to have egg on his immature face!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

A civilian airliner has never been accidentally shot down over Russian airspace.

I suppose that could be true. All the times Russia or the USSR shot down airliners, they meant to do it. Somehow, that isn't comforting.

But none of this has to do with Iran accidentally shooting down a Ukrainian airliner.

Does anyone really think it was planned, on purpose, desired by the Iranian leaders? I do not. I think it was an accident or a failure to communicated flight plans between the guys running the missiles and the airport. Those people almost certainly feel terrible about what they did. A note in their service records and removal from whatever position they had which allowed the mistake should be sufficient.

To me, the real problem is the cover-up by the people involved and that national leadership didn't appear to know the facts for at least 3 days. I suppose if my country would behead me for making a mistake, I might fail to report anything too. That's a cultural and command leadership problem. Someone lied for a few days.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Iran makes arrests in plane shootdown;

Arrests?? I thought it was a mistake. By making arrests the regime implies that the shooters did it on purpose, either on command or by ignoring commands. This makes the regime look even worse.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

They've arrested someone accused of filming the missile hit. (Buried in the article).

Quote: "A person who posted a video online last week of a missile striking the plane has been taken into custody by the elite Revolutionary Guards, the semi-official Fars news agency reported."

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Burning Bush

America took 4 years to admit to shot down a civilian airliner in 1988.

It took Iran less than 4 days.

You're misinformed. The Pentagon retracted its initial assessment that USS Vincennes had shot down an Iranian F-14 very quickly and confirmed within 24 hours Iran's account that the downed aircraft was a civilian airliner. The US also didn't deny that it shot down an (misidentified) aircraft. The short-lived disagreement was the correct identity of the aircraft that was shot down. That was never a problem in Iran's case, yet they immediately denied that their military action could have been the cause. Congratulating them for taking four days to admit fault is ridiculous. If there wasn't clear and overwhelming satellite intel, video, and photo evidence of a missile shootdown, they may still be claiming that the 176 people are dead because of engine trouble.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Iran said on Tuesday it had arrested people accused of a role in shooting down a Ukrainian airliner

Once hostilities started, all commercial aircraft should have been grounded. The official responsible for ordering the grounding, but failed to do so, should have been the first to be arrested.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thefu:

A note in their service records and removal from whatever position they had which allowed the mistake should be sufficient.

Agreed. If corporations can get away with killing people without being dissolved and assets forfeited, and low end workers to CEOs are not arrested, why treat this differently? Multiple nations have created this precendent, now they should stand by it. But, in that same regard, im totally for suing the shiek out of them. There was no regime change, presidential resignation, etc, in 1988 with US shoot down of aircraft.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It took Iran less than 4 days.

After outright lying, and after being presented with intel evidence exposing the lie, and being unable to avoid inviting foreign investigators

If it weren't for the intel evidence and coming investigators............. who knows how long the cover-up would last

Yeah they were dragged kicking and screaming into admitting

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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