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Iran announces arrests over downing of Ukrainian plane

Associated Press logo Associated Press 14/01/2020

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Iran's judiciary said Tuesday arrests have been made over the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed all 176 people on board just after takeoff from Tehran. 

The announcement came shortly after Iran's president called for a special court to be set up to probe the downing last week of the plane by Iranian forces.

FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2019, file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting at the prime minister's office in Tokyo.  Iran on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, acknowledged that its armed forces “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (Charly Triballeau/Pool Photo via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 20, 2019, file photo, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting at the prime minister's office in Tokyo. Iran on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, acknowledged that its armed forces “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (Charly Triballeau/Pool Photo via AP, File) Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted by Iranian state media saying that "extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested. He did not say how many individuals have been detained or name them.

Iran, which initially dismissed allegations that a missile had brought down the jetliner, acknowledged — three days after Wednesday's downing and in the face of mounting evidence — that its Revolutionary Guard had shot down the Ukrainian plane by mistake.

"The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts," President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech televised in Iran on Tuesday. “This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court.”

Flowers and candles are placed in front of portraits of the flight crew members of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran, at a memorial inside Borispil international airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says that Iran must take further steps following its admission that one of its missiles shot down Ukrainian civilian airliner. He also expressed hope for the continuation of the crash investigation without delay. A team of Ukrainian investigators is in Iran. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © Provided by Associated Press Flowers and candles are placed in front of portraits of the flight crew members of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran, at a memorial inside Borispil international airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says that Iran must take further steps following its admission that one of its missiles shot down Ukrainian civilian airliner. He also expressed hope for the continuation of the crash investigation without delay. A team of Ukrainian investigators is in Iran. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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

This undated photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, shows the wreckage of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 at the scene of the crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran has acknowledged that its armed forces "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) © Provided by Associated Press This undated photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, shows the wreckage of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 at the scene of the crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran has acknowledged that its armed forces "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) “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.

This undated photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, shows detail of the wreckage of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 at the scene of the crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran has acknowledged that its armed forces "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) © Provided by Associated Press This undated photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, shows detail of the wreckage of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 at the scene of the crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran has acknowledged that its armed forces "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) This undated photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, shows detail of the wreckage of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 at the scene of the crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran has acknowledged that its armed forces "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) © Provided by Associated Press This undated photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, shows detail of the wreckage of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 at the scene of the crash in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Iran has acknowledged that its armed forces "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP) Rouhani called the government's admission that Iranian forces shot down the plane the "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.

People gather for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukraine plane crash, at the gate of Amri Kabir University that some of the victims of the crash were former students of, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Iran on Saturday, Jan. 11, acknowledged that its armed forces "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) © Provided by Associated Press People gather for a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the Ukraine plane crash, at the gate of Amri Kabir University that some of the victims of the crash were former students of, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Iran on Saturday, Jan. 11, acknowledged that its armed forces "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran shot down the plane when it was bracing for possible U.S. retaliation for a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq. No one was hurt in that attack, which was carried out to avenge the stunning killing of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad.

Relatives of one of the flight crew members of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran, stand at a memorial inside Borispil international airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says that Iran must take further steps following its admission that one of its missiles shot down Ukrainian civilian airliner. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) © Provided by Associated Press Relatives of one of the flight crew members of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran, stand at a memorial inside Borispil international airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says that Iran must take further steps following its admission that one of its missiles shot down Ukrainian civilian airliner. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The shootdown and the lack of transparency around it has reignited anger in Iran at the country’s leadership, with protesters taking to the streets in past days. Online videos appeared to show security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protests in the streets.

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