Flight victims' families reject Iran’s compensation, demand justice

Families of the victims of the downed Ukraine Airlines flight warned the Iranian government that they will not accept any planned compensation and rather will fight for justice.

al-monitor Mourners light candles for the victims of Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 during a vigil at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto, Ontario, on Jan. 9, 2020. Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images.

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retaliation, qasem soleimani, compensation, iranian government, ukraine, justice, irgc

Dec 23, 2020

Families who lost loved ones aboard Ukraine Airlines flight 752 after it was downed by Iranian forces in January said they would reject any compensation from the Iranian government and plan only to seek justice for the victims.

An association of the families issued a strongly worded statement addressing the Iranian government ahead of the anniversary of the tragedy. “The murderer cannot play the mourner,” the public message read, carrying out complaints about “mental torture” and other forms of pressure during the past 11 months on the families and attempts by the government to “hijack” the anniversary. It also accused Iranian officials of trying to sweep the “crime” under the rug and impose their own narrative on the international community.

The passenger jet was brought down within minutes of takeoff by two missiles fired from a base controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) outside the capital, Tehran. None of the 176 people on board, most of them Iranian-Canadians, survived the strike. For nearly three days after the incident, Iranian authorities denied any involvement, offering multiple explanations, including an engine failure. Yet under a mounting pile of evidence, they ultimately took the bitter pill, admitting a “human error” and promising to put to trial those behind the fired missiles.

Nearly a year after the tragedy, Tehran has not publicly named any perpetrator. “We are vigilant enough not to sign any compensation document. Instead, they must identify the murderers,” the families declared in their statement.

The incident occurred only hours after Iran targeted a US-run air base in neighboring Iraq in what was described as “harsh revenge” for the US killing of IRGC commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani. At the time of the crash, Iranian officials were reportedly in a state of high alert, anticipating likely retaliation from US forces. However, their refusal to close the country’s air space only strengthened theories about a premeditated strike.

The families say they have obtained an audio file purportedly bearing exchanges at a top security meeting in Tehran, where the downing was specifically decided and planned to be used to implicate the United States.

Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority announced Dec. 23 that it had submitted a draft report on the tragedy to the countries involved in the investigation. Those countries have been given two months to send their feedback to Tehran before a final report is released.

Last week, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne infuriated Tehran by stating that he did not believe Iran’s “human error” narrative. In response, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh slammed Canada for politicizing the case, interfering in Tehran’s affairs and trying to derail the ongoing investigation. Ukraine and Canada have both accused the Islamic Republic of evading accountability and leaving “many questions unanswered."

Despite the continuing pressure from Iranian authorities, some of the family members held a sit-in at a military court in Tehran Dec. 14 to protest the government’s attempt at “sidelining” them from the probe. The father of one victim described Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the IRGC Aerospace Force commander, as a “criminal” who is obviously obstructing justice because “his own hands are stained with the blood of our children.”

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