'High-level officials behind shooting down of airliner in Iran'

Report from victims' families challenges Iran's official findings on crash that killed 176 people

People hold placards with images of the victims of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, which was shot down near Tehran by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, as they gather to take part in a march to mark its first anniversary, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

High-level Iranian officials were responsible for the 2020 shooting down of a Ukrainian jetliner, not just an accident caused by a missile systems operator, families of victims said in a report on Wednesday.

The report by an association representing 140 of the victims of Flight PS752 challenges Iran's official findings, which blamed a misaligned radar and an error by the air defence operator for shooting down the plane shortly after it took off from Tehran's airport. All 176 people aboard were killed.

Tehran said the operator mistook the jet for a missile at a time when tensions were high between Iran and the US.

The report is more than 200 pages long and was prepared by the association's fact-finding committee with assistance from aviation and legal experts.

It is not an official air crash accident report, which is designed not to focus on liability but to see how safety can be improved in the future.

"It is the belief of the association that high-ranking officials of Iran are responsible for the downing of Flight PS752 and not just a handful of low ranking ... members, as per the claims of the government of Iran," the report said.

It emphasised the continuing dispute over Iran's official findings, which have been criticised by Ukraine and Canada because Iran had responsibility for investigating the circumstances and causes of the crash.

Many of the victims killed in the crash were Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

A Canadian investigation into the crash reported in June that it found no evidence Iran's downing of the jet was premeditated, but condemned what it called the incompetence and recklessness of those responsible.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Department is analysing the victims association's latest report, a government spokeswoman said.

The report said the missile system operator had vast experience and expertise with short-range missile systems, including service in Syria, and should have been able to distinguish the airliner from a cruise missile.

The association, composed of mostly Canadian families, said the report used public information and recordings of "high-ranking Iranian officials" among its sources.

Meanwhile, Canada, Sweden, Ukraine, and the UK issued a joint statement expressing disappointment that Iran had not accepted requests to meet on November 22 to negotiate reparations for shooting the plane down.

The countries called on Iran to meet them before the end of the year and pledged to hold it responsible for the crash.

"Should Iran continue to avoid negotiating with the group, the co-ordination group will have no choice but to seriously consider other actions and measures to resolve this matter within the framework of international law," they said.

Updated: November 24th 2021, 11:19 PM