Protests in Iran have piled pressure on the country’s leaders after they admitted the armed forces mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, following prior denials.
Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 bound for Kyiv, Ukraine, crashed minutes after take-off from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.
Here are the latest updates as of Monday, January 13:
Protesters denouncing Iran’s clerical rulers took to the streets and riot police deployed to face them in a third day of demonstrations after authorities acknowledged shooting down a passenger plane by accident.
Video from inside Iran showed students on Monday chanting slogans including “Clerics get lost!” outside universities in the city of Isfahan and in Tehran, where riot police were filmed taking out positions on the streets.
Scores, possibly hundreds, of protesters were videoed at sites in Tehran and Isfahan, a major city south of the capital.
“They killed our elites and replaced them with clerics,” they chanted outside a Tehran university, referring to Iranian students returning to studies in Canada who were on the plane.
Five nations whose citizens died when the Ukrainian airliner was shot down will meet in London on Thursday to discuss possible legal action, Ukraine’s foreign minister told Reuters news agency.
Speaking at the sidelines of an official visit to Singapore, Vadym Prystaiko said the countries would also discuss compensation and the investigation into the incident.
“We have created this group of foreign ministers from the grieving nations. On January 16, we will meet in person in London to discuss the ways, including legal, how we are following this up, how we are prosecuting them [Iran],” Prystaiko said.
Britain has summoned the Iranian ambassador to the country to convey its strong objections to the brief arrest of London’s envoy to Tehran on Saturday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
“This was an unacceptable breach of the Vienna Convention and it needs to be investigated,” the spokesman said. “We are seeking full assurances from the Iranian government that this will never happen again.
“The FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] has summoned the Iranian ambassador today to convey our strong objections.”
Iran’s government spokesman dismissed tweets by US President Donald Trump voicing support for Iranians, saying the Iranian people would remember he killed general Soleimani and was the reason many were facing economic challenges, state media said.
Trump, who told Iran’s authorities in tweets published in both Farsi and English not to kill protesters and praised the “great Iranian people”, was shedding “crocodile tears” when voicing concern for Iranians, Ali Rabiei said.
Iran’s government denied a “cover-up” after it took days for the armed forces to admit a Ukrainian airliner was shot down by mistake last week.
“In these sorrowful days, many criticisms were directed at relevant officials and authorities … some officials were even accused of lying and a cover-up but, in all honesty, that was not the case,” spokesman Ali Rabiei said in remarks aired on state television.
France and Russia have a shared desire to safeguard Iran’s nuclear deal, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement following a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Leaders of Britain, France and Germany on Sunday called on Iran to return to full compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and refrain from further violence.
Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, said Iranians “should be allowed to safely grieve and demand accountability” after he described as “successive national traumas in a short time period”.
“Iranians shouldn’t have to risk their lives to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful assembly.”
Police in the Iranian capital did not fire on protesters and officers have been under orders to show restraint, Tehran’s police chief said in a statement carried by the state broadcaster’s website.
Videos posted on social media late on Sunday recorded gunshots fired in the vicinity of protests. The footage could not be independently verified.
“At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint,” Hossein Rahimi, head of the Tehran police, said.
Mark Esper, the US defence secretary, said he did not see specific evidence from intelligence officials that Iran was planning to attack four US embassies, an assertion made by US President Donald Trump in justifying the killing of Soleimani.
While Esper said he agreed with Trump that additional attacks against US embassies were likely, he said on CBS’s Face the Nation that Trump’s remarks to Fox News were not based on specific evidence of a planned attack on four embassies.
“What the president said was that there probably could be additional attacks against embassies. I shared that view,” Esper said. “The president didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence.”
Protests erupted across Iran for a second day on Sunday, piling pressure on the leadership after the military admitted it had mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian airliner.
“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” a group of protesters outside a university in Tehran chanted, according to video clips posted on Twitter.
Posts showed other demonstrators outside a second university and a group of protesters marching to Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square. The videos also showed protests in other cities.
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