Iran to send black boxes of downed passenger plane to Ukraine
Tehran says international experts will be allowed to inspect the data from plane crash that killed 176 civilians
An Iranian official indicated that Tehran will hand over the black boxes from a Ukrainian passenger plane shot down by the military after taking off from the Iranian capital on January 8.
Iran will be sending the boxes to Ukraine and is prepared to allow international experts to inspect the data, Reuters reported on Saturday citing a report from the Tasnim news agency which quoted Hassan Rezaifar, a director in charge of accident investigations at Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.
All 176 people aboard the Ukrainian International Airlines flight from Tehran en route to Kyiv when the plane was brought down by ballistic missiles shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. Iran has maintained it was an accident.
“With the use of the expertise of the countries of France, Canada and America we will try to read the [flight data recorder] in Kyiv,” Rezaifar was quoted as saying. “If this effort is unsuccessful then the black box will be sent to France,” he added.
Rezaifar further indicated that Iran will not read the data, according to the Tasnim report.
More than 80 Canadians were on the flight and a majority of passengers were headed for Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has urged Iran to accept full responsibility for the incident and to compensate the families.
Speaking in a press briefing on Friday, Trudeau also said the “black boxes” have been significantly damaged and Iran does not have the expertise or equipment needed to look at them. He said France has a lab that can do it and that there is a need to do the analysis as quickly as possible.
The spokesman for the French accident investigating bureau, or BEA, said it has no information about eventually obtaining the demolished airplane’s black boxes, the voice and data recorders, to decipher them. Sebastien Barthe added that it is up to Iran, which is in charge of the investigation, to decide the matter.
Trudeau held the news conference in Ottawa after Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne met his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Muscat, Oman on Friday.
A statement from Champagne’s office said the two discussed the need to provide consular services to assist in ensuring victim identification and the importance of a transparent investigation.
Canada suspended diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012, but Trudeau and Champagne have been in touch with their Iranian counterparts since the plane was shot down.
Iran downed the flight as it braced for possible American retaliation after firing ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing US forces. The missile attack, which caused no US casualties, was a response to the US killing by drone of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad on January 3.
Iran had faced increased pressure at home and abroad over its handling of the plane incident. Tehran had initially blamed a technical fault before acknowledging in the face of mounting evidence that its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard had accidentally brought down the jetliner.