Iranians bury victims from downed Ukrainian plane

Emotions run high as several victims are buried in the sprawling Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery south of Tehran.

Iranian students light candles during a memorial ceremony for passengers of Ukraine airplane, at the Tehran university in Tehran, Iran, 14 January 2020. Media reported that some protestors were arrest
The head of the coroner's office in Tehran said 123 of the 176 victims had been identified, ILNA news agency reported [Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA]

Iranians buried their dead on Wednesday from an airliner shot down by the military as authorities identified more of the 176 victims of last week’s crash, which led to days of protests against Iran’s rulers followed by a police crackdown.

Several victims were buried in the sprawling Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery south of Tehran, while others would be transferred abroad, Iranian media said.

Emotions have been running high as the victims of the January 8 crash are mourned.

An online video showed the national flag ripped from the coffin of one victim when relatives collected the body and the mother shouted, “Tear it off”.

Protesters took to the streets of Iranian cities for four days after the armed forces finally acknowledged on Saturday, after days of denials, that they brought down the plane.

In several places, demonstrators met a fierce police response.

Iranians on social media called for more protests on Wednesday, but there was no sign of the kind of rallies held on previous days. Instead, videos showed riot police massed outside universities, the focal point for demonstrations.

Iran announces first arrests in downing of Ukrainian airliner

Iran is battling several fronts. A new international crisis has erupted over its nuclear programme, the economy is in tatters under United States sanctions, and a long-running standoff with the US briefly spiralled into open conflict.

The plane was downed by air defences when the armed forces were on high alert for US reprisals, hours after Iran launched missiles against US targets in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian commander on January 3.

‘Unforgivable error’

Most of those on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752, bound for Kyiv in Ukraine, were Iranians or dual citizens, many of them students returning to their studies abroad or families on their way home after seeing relatives in Iran.

The head of the coroner’s office in Tehran said 123 of the 176 victims had been identified, ILNA news agency reported.

The military and top officials apologised for the “unforgivable error” in bringing the plane down and said the Iranian government would prosecute those to blame. The judiciary said people had been arrested who were accused of having a role in the disaster. 

An investigation is underway in Iran, with international experts from several countries allowed into the country to provide technical assistance in the probe.

Iranians react with anger over downing of plane

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies