Iran’s judiciary says arrests have been made over the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed all 176 people on board just after takeoff from Tehran.
The announcement came shortly after Iran’s president called for a special court to be set up to investigate the downing last week of the plane by Iranian forces.
Iranian state media quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili saying that “extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested”. He did not name anyone or say how many had been held.
Iran, which initially dismissed allegations that a missile had brought down the plane, acknowledged that its Revolutionary Guards had shot down the Ukrainian plane by mistake three days after Wednesday’s crash and in the face of mounting evidence.
“The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech in Iran on Tuesday. “This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court.”
Rouhani called the incident “a painful and unforgivable” mistake and promised that his administration would pursue the case “by all means”.
“The responsibility falls on more than just one person,” he said, adding that those found culpable “should be punished”.
He added: “There are others, too, and I want that this issue is expressed honestly,” without elaborating further.
Rouhani called the government’s admission that Iranian forces shot down the plane a “first good step”.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians — including many Iranians with dual citizenship — and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. There were four Britons on board and several children among the passengers, including an infant.
Iran shot down the plane when it was braced for possible US retaliation over a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq. No one was hurt in that attack, which was carried out to avenge the killing of Revolutionary Guards leader Qassem Suleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad.
The downing and the lack of transparency around it has reignited anger in Iran at the country’s leadership, with protesters taking to the streets. Online videos and witness accounts appeared to show security forces firing live ammunition and teargas to disperse protests.