Iran says it has begun paying families over downed Ukraine plane

Iran says it is ready to hold talks with counties whose citizens were killed when IRGC shot down civilian plane.

Rescue teams are seen on January 8, 2020 at the scene of a Ukrainian airliner that crashed shortly after take-off near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran. - Search-and-rescue teams we
Rescue teams are seen on January 8, 2020 at the scene of a Ukrainian airliner that crashed shortly after takeoff near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran, Iran [File: Akbar Tavakoli/ IRNA/AFP]

Tehran, Iran – Iran has said it is ready to hold bilateral talks with all the countries whose citizens were among the 176 victims when an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) air defence battery shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 on January 8, 2020.

The Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that Iran has begun the process of paying the $150,000 compensation its government promised to victims’ families at the end of 2020, and will continue to hold court sessions with families present to bring to account the 10 unnamed people it has indicted.

In its statement, the foreign ministry said Iran has been transparent and accused other countries of trying to “take advantage of this painful incident” in order to advance their political agendas.

The statement comes after four countries whose citizens were killed in the incident said negotiations with Iran were “futile” after the country missed a final Wednesday deadline for agreeing to multilateral talks.

Canada, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom said in a statement that Iran has explicitly told them it will not engage in group dialogue, so they are now determined to resolve the issue through international law.

Canada, which had 55 citizens and 30 permanent residents onboard the flight, has taken the most action so far.

Last year, an Ontario court ruled that Iran’s actions constituted an intentional “act of terrorism”, which opened the door for several families to seek damages. Earlier this week, a court granted an $84m settlement to the families of six victims.

Flight PS752 had only just taken off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport when it was shot down by two missiles.

Three days later, the IRGC admitted it shot down the plane, saying the tragedy was caused by “human error” amid high tensions with the United States.

Days earlier, the US had assassinated Iran’s top general and one of its most powerful figures, the IRGC Quds Force’s Qassem Soleimani, in Iraq.

On the night of the incident, Iranian forces were on high alert for a potential US response after launching over a dozen missiles at two bases hosting US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani.

While the governments continue to trade barbs about how to handle the issue, Iranians inside and outside the country have been commemorating the victims.

Social media outlets are filled with posts about the victims, many of whom were young Iranian dual nationals on their way to study or live abroad. The hashtag #IWillLightACandleToo has been trending for days as users remember the victims and call for justice.

Separately on Friday, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, the head of Iran’s Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans, said all Iranian nationals on the flight were eligible for “martyrdom”, which entitles their families to some privileges.

Source: Al Jazeera