Iran makes first arrests over Ukrainian airliner downing - GulfToday

Iran makes first arrests over Ukrainian airliner downing

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A Boeing 737-800 of the Ukraine International airline is seen at the airport in Duesseldorf, Germany. File photo/AFP

Iran on Tuesday announced its first arrests over the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner in Tehran last week, after a third night of angry protests over the disaster.

The Ukraine International Airlines plane was brought down by a missile shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.

Tehran for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence that the Boeing 737 had been downed by a missile.

It came clean on Saturday when Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh acknowledged a missile operator had mistaken the plane for a cruise missile and opened fire independently.

At a televised news conference, the judiciary announced the first arrests had been made over the blunder, without specifying how many.

"Extensive investigations have been carried out and some people have been arrested," said spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili.

The announcement came shortly after President Hassan Rouhani said everyone responsible for the disaster must be punished.

"For our people it is very important in this incident that anyone who was at fault or negligent at any level" face justice, Rouhani said.

"Anyone who should be punished must be punished.

"The judiciary must form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts... The whole world will be watching," Rouhani said.

"It cannot be that only the person who pressed the button is at fault. There are others, and I want this to be explained to the people explicitly."

Agence France-Presse