An Iranian court has convicted 10 soldiers of the country’s air defense forces for the 2020 downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet in Tehran, according to the official judiciary news agency.
Nine of those sentenced Sunday, April 16 received prison terms between one and three years, while one defendant, identified as commander of the Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile defense system responsible for shooting down the airliner on Jan. 8, 2020, received a jail sentence of 13 years, minus time served, the judiciary’s official Mizan reported.
The plane was hit by two surface-to-air missiles shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport early on Jan. 8, 2020, killing all on board, most of whom were Iranian and Canadian citizens.
The shootdown occurred as the United States and Iran seemed on the edge of War.
The news agency said the commander was sentenced to 10 years for not following orders and three years for overseeing “the murder of the passengers of the Ukrainian plane.”
The commander was also sentenced to pay compensation to the families of the 176 people killed on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752.
The court said the unnamed person shot down the plane due to “his ignorance of the matter and his mistaken idea of the discovered target, and believing that the target was hostile and approaching.”
The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, called the verdict of the Iranian court illegitimate.
“This court did not prosecute the commanders and main perpetrators of this crime, introduced 10 accused low-ranking officers with total obscurity of their backgrounds and identities, held sessions in private, flouted the families who attended the hearings and ultimately issued a sham ruling to end this show in keeping with their predetermined scenario without conducting any full, impartial investigation,” it said in a statement.
Iran was put on high alert the morning the airliner was shot down as its military had just launched a premeditated strike against U.S. positions in Iraq, which was in response to the United States assassinating Iran’s Qasem Soleimani, head of an elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Tehran had initially blamed the downing on a mechanical failure, but days later, and while under international pressure, said it was the result of “human error,” claiming the operator of a surface-to-air missile launcher misidentified the departing plane for an incoming threat.
The court on Sunday said the downing of Flight 752 was the result of the commander misidentifying the plane and that the person fired “without obtaining permission and contrary to the relevant instructions.”
Following an investigation in 2021, Canada said it holds Iran’s high-ranking civilian and military authorities “fully responsible” for shooting down the aircraft, while calling Tehran’s official account of what happened “disingenuous, misleading and superficial.”