Trolls hijack press conference for families of victims in Iran-downed airliner

Families were responding to Canadian court’s decision to award them $84m in compensation

People hold signs with images of the victims of downed Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752. AFP
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Internet trolls on Tuesday hijacked what was supposed to be a good-news press conference for families of the victims of Ukraine Airlines Flight 752, which Iran shot down in January 2020.

Lawyers and relatives convened the virtual event a day after a Canadian court awarded six victims' families $84 million in damages.

“If anybody from the Islamic Republic of Iran is on this call, if the supreme leader is on this call, we're coming after your assets, gentlemen in Iran,” lawyer Mark Arnold said right before the news conference was interrupted.

Mr Arnold said he would not disclose how he intended to pursue Iranian assets in Canada and abroad, only that “we know where they are, where they are in Canada, and we know where they are internationally".

But seconds after a lawyer for the families challenged the Iranian regime, the Zoom-held press conference was disrupted by loud music and pornographic images flashing on the screen.

It was not immediately known who had carried out the hack against the news conference.

Monday's award for family members was seen as a sliver of good news days before the second anniversary of the plane’s downing on January 8.

Families have been battling for 24 months to hold Iran accountable after members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps mistakenly shot the plane down shortly after it took off from the Tehran airport.

Some are no strangers to harassment. Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, reported an unmarked car waiting outside his home and said he had received threatening messages on Instagram.

Iran, which at first denied any involvement, has conceded the plane was shot down by “mistake".

The incident occurred days after the US assassinated Iran’s powerful military commander Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad and amid heightened tension in the region.

But families, many of whom now reside in Canada, say a mere concession is not enough. They have called on the Canadian and Ukrainian governments as well as on the international community to hold Iran accountable.

The ruling in Canada, handed down in an Ontario court, was filed by six families of the victims. It is the first time a Canadian court has awarded punitive damages for an act of “terrorism".

Updated: January 04, 2022, 8:00 PM