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Families Say Top Iran Officials Have Immunity Over Downed Airliner

A notice sent by Tehran Military Prosecutor's Office to the victims’ families of a Ukrainian airliner shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) in January 2020 says government and military organizations and several high-ranking officials cannot be legally prosecuted.

A statement from PS752 Association, a Canada-based group representing families of some of the victims reported the development quoting other families in Iran.

The statement said that instead, Iran has charged nine mid and low-ranking officers with manslaughter of 177 people (including an unborn), negligence, and failing to follow official duties. Authorities had previously said ten had been indicted.

The statement named the nine, eight from the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and one from Artesh, the regular army. Iranian officials had earlier explained the shooting down of the airliner, killing all aboard, as the result of misidentifying the plane as an incoming Cruise missile and misaligning a mobile surface-to-air missile battery during a situation of high alert during the night of January 8, 2020. Hours earlier, Iran had fired missiles at United States military bases in Iraq in response to the US killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and nine others with a drone strike in Baghdad.

The notice sent to the families, PS752 Association’s statement said, ruled out prosecuting the presidential administration, the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), and various officials including Hossein Salami, IRGC commander-in-chief, and Amir Ali Hajizadeh, IRGC Aerospace commander.

The statement said this “arbitrarily exonerated” the “real culprits of this heinous crime,” who included the SNSC, “who ordered to keep the skies open and use innocent civilians as human shield; the IRGC and its high command, who are directly implicated in the shooting of at least two missiles at a passenger jetliner; the government’s top officials who conspired to lie and deceive to hide their crime; and Ali Khamenei [the Iranian Supreme Leader], who is ultimately responsible for the crime as the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of Iran."

The statement said the association expected a “suitable reaction by the government of Canada, Ukraine, the UK and Swedish [sic]” to the court notice while “truth and justice can only be achieved through an impartial, international tribunal" to consider an attack that was "premeditated."

Ukraine and Canada, which had dozens of citizens on the flight, have accused Iran of a lack of cooperation in explaining the downing of the flight. The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Agnes Callamard in February said the government's explanations for shooting down the plane were intended “to create maximum confusion and minimum clarity” and seemed “contrived to mislead and bewilder.”

Callamard said that “in situations of high military tension, the most effective means to prevent attacks on civil aviation is to close the airspace. Had Iran, knowing full well that hostilities with the US could readily escalate, closed its airspace for civilian traffic that evening, 176 human beings would not have been killed.” 

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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