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Iran starts hearings over 2020 downing of Ukrainian airliner that killed 176

10 military personnel suspected; victims’ families attend first trial session

A picture obtained from the Iranian Mizan News agency shows a view of the opening hearing in the military trial for the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 that was shot down in January 2020 near the capital, that began in Tehran on November 21, 2021. (MIZAN NEWS / AFP)
A picture obtained from the Iranian Mizan News agency shows a view of the opening hearing in the military trial for the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 that was shot down in January 2020 near the capital, that began in Tehran on November 21, 2021. (MIZAN NEWS / AFP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Iranian military court Sunday began a hearing over the military’s shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in 2020 that killed 176 people, the official IRNA news agency reported.

The report said 10 military personnel — suspects from” various ranks” — were present at the session. Families of victims and their lawyers also attended the session, representing 103 legal complaints over the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines flight number PS752.

The report quoted the unidentified judge as saying that he hoped the court would issue a “precise, quick and serious” verdict, based on a “reasonable, fair, transparent, clear-cut and strong” procedure.

The court heard statements by lawyers of victims’ families, and the report said that the next session will be announced following further investigations by the prosecutor.

The report did not identify the suspects. Sunday’s session was the first hearing since the incident, nearly 22 months ago.

In April, a prosecutor said that 10 officials have been indicted over the case. That came a month after Iran faced withering international criticism for releasing a final report that blamed human error, but named no one responsible.

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, January 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

In January 2020, following three days of denial in the face of mounting evidence, Iran finally acknowledged that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly downed the Ukrainian plane with two surface-to-air missiles.

In preliminary reports on the disaster in 2020, Iranian authorities blamed an air defense operator, who, they said, mistook the Boeing 737-800 for an American cruise missile.

It happened on the same day that Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on US troops in Iraq in retaliation for an American drone strike that killed al-Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Later, Guard officials publicly apologized for the incident. But the hesitancy of Iran to elaborate on what happened shows the power the force wields.

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