Iran Says Arrests Made Over Downing Of Ukrainian Passenger Plane

Iran Says Arrests Made Over Downing Of Ukrainian Passenger Plane
TEHRAN, Iran Iran s judiciary said Tuesday arrests have been made for the that killed all 176 people on board just after takeoff from Tehran last week.

The announcement came amid an upswell of anger and protests by Iranians in recent days over the downing of the jetliner last Wednesday and apparent attempts by senior officials in Iran to coverup the cause of the crash.

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 judiciarys website did not say how many individuals had been detained or name them.

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

Rouhani called the incident a painful and unforgivable mistake and promised that his administration would pursue the case by all means.

The responsibility falls on more than just one person, he said, adding that those found culpable should be punished.

There are others, too, and I want that this issue is expressed honestly, he said, without elaborating.

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

Iranian Presidency Office via AP/CP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a meeting in Tehran on Tuesday in this image released by official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency.

While Rouhani pointed to mistakes and negligence, he also repeated the governments line that the tragedy was ultimately rooted in U.S. aggression.

It was the U.S. that made for an agitated environment. It was the U.S. that created an unusual situation. It was the U.S. that threatened and took our beloved (Soleimani), he said.

Rouhani called the governments admission that Iranian forces shot down the plane a first good step.

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.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guards aerospace division, said over the weekend his unit accepts full responsibility for the shootdown. He said when he learned about the downing of the plane, I wished I was dead.

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

The shootdown and the lack of transparency around it has reignited anger in Iran at the countrys leadership. Online videos appeared to show security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protests in the streets.

Also Tuesday, Irans judiciary said that 30 people had been detained in the protests, and that some were released, without elaborating further. An Iranian film director whod called for protests in Tehrans Azadi, or Freedom Square, is among those released.

Iranian authorities briefly arrested British Ambassador Rob Macaire on Saturday evening. He has said he went to a candlelight vigil to pay his respects for the victims of the Ukrainian plane shootdown and left as soon as the chanting began and it turned into a protest.

Irans Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador on Sunday to protest what it said was his presence at an illegal protest. Britain, in turn, summoned Irans ambassador on Monday to convey our strong objections over the weekend arrest.
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