Iran sentences 10 troops to prison over 2020 downing of Ukraine airliner

Ukrainian International Airlines plane with 176 people on board was downed by missiles in January 2020

Syed Zafar Mehdi  | 17.04.2023 - Update : 17.04.2023
Iran sentences 10 troops to prison over 2020 downing of Ukraine airliner


More than three years after the downing of a Ukrainian International Airlines plane in Tehran, Iran's judiciary on Sunday issued verdicts against 10 military members, including a commander, in the high-profile case.

According to the judiciary's media center, the main accused in the case, a military commander who ordered the strikes, was sentenced to a total of 13 years in jail on two counts.

It said the incident happened “due to his ignorance of the situation and his mistaken belief that the intended target was hostile.”

He was also asked to pay blood money to the families of victims who have asked for it.

The other nine accused in the case were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to three years.

The incident, which sent ripples of shock worldwide, came four days after Iran's top military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020, in Baghdad.

Two missiles struck the Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 after it took off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing all 176 people on board.

Iranian authorities initially denied that missiles had hit the plane. They later termed it a "human error", but countries like Canada, Britain, Ukraine and Sweden, whose citizens were killed in the incident, rejected the explanation.

In January 2021, the Iranian government agreed to pay $150,000 in reparations to the families of each of the victims after Canada, Britain, Sweden and Ukraine vowed to resolve the matter in line with international law.

- 20 court sessions held

Iran's judiciary, in its statement on Sunday, said examining the case was "one of the most important, sensitive and complex judicial processes" that lasted three years.

The investigation was undertaken by the military prosecutor's office initially and later the case was referred to the Tehran military court with 10 people receiving the summons.

In total, the judiciary statement noted, 20 court sessions were held over three years and verdicts were based on statements of military and judicial officials, forensic reports, expert panels, etc.

The main accused, it said, thought the characteristics of the target were "similar to a cruise missile", and fired two missiles "contrary to the order of the command post and without obtaining permission."

Among the other nine defendants in the case, four got one-year prison sentences, two got two-year terms, two got three-year sentences and one got a one-and-a-half-year jail term.

The judiciary statement further noted that the sentences are preliminary and subject to appeal in the higher court within 20 days.

The majority of the victims were Canadian citizens of Iranian origin.

Canada in June 2021 said it found no evidence that the incident was premeditated but condemned what it called the "incompetence and recklessness" of those responsible.

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