A new report accuses Iranian authorities of tampering with electronic devices and misidentifying the remains of some of the passengers killed on Flight 752 of Ukrainian Airlines.
The findings are among the new findings included in a lengthy report by the PS752 Flight Victims Families Association examining the commercial plane crash on January 8, 2020 by the Iranian military.
All 176 people on board the plane bound for Kiev were killed when a Boeing 737-800 was fired from a surface-to-air missile fired by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard just minutes after taking off from Tehran airport.
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The dead included 55 Canadians, 30 permanent residents and dozens more fleeing to Canada, as well as citizens of Britain, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Sweden.
Iran initially lied about the cause of the tragedy in the following days, but eventually admitted to shooting down the plane.
The new report says some cell phones and tablets of the dead passengers showed signs of harassment in what could have been an attempt to cover up the cause of the crash.
Families of PS752 flight victims seek truth from Iran after release of final report
“One possible explanation is that these electronic devices may have been bulldozed in an attempt to destroy any possible evidence the victims recorded in the last minutes of their lives,” the report says.
The families recruited a retired Toronto police homicide detective, Mark Mendelson, whose consulting firm examined a laptop and cell phones that were returned to the families. He concluded that the equipment “showed evidence of human manipulation” and showed no evidence of combustion patterns or other signs of damage in line with the plane crashing to the ground.
“The fact that these memory / data components are missing is not in line with the damage caused by a sudden and strong shock. “Moreover, the fact that the screws were removed and the covers were opened strongly suggests that concerted efforts have been made to extract these components, making it impossible to review the data.”
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The report also says that Iranian authorities failed to identify some of the victims, a revelation that will only increase the pain and suffering of their loved ones.
“The association has received evidence that DNA testing on the bodies of some victims did not match their stated identification by the Iranian authorities,” the report says.
“This negligence on the part of the Iranian government has had serious psychological consequences for the families, some of whom did not receive all the bodies of their loved ones and were replaced by the remains of other victims.”
The report accused Iranian authorities of “systematic coverage” of the cause of the crash.
Iran blames ‘human error’ for downing Ukrainian plane
The plane crashed during a period of high tension after Iran launched rocket attacks on bases in Iraq where US troops were stationed. Iran said it was retaliating for a US drone strike that killed Iran’s top military commander days ago.
The report says Iran’s claim that it closed its western skies as a precautionary measure was false because flight tracking data showed other passenger planes in the air before the tragedy.
The report also says a leaked audio file of a meeting between the former Iranian foreign minister and other senior officials, including senior military figures, shows an attempt “to publicly spread the narrative that Flight PS752 had crashed due to a technical failure “.
Wednesday’s report builds on previous criticism Canadian authorities have made of the Iranian regime, including the fact that it dragged its heels for months before releasing flight recorders.
In March, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization blamed “human error” for the incident, saying an operator fired two surface-to-air missiles after misidentifying the Boeing 737-800 as a “hostile target” and despite not receiving a green light from superiors. , according to the procedure.
The Canadian government rejected the Iranian report, calling it “incomplete” and without “solid facts or evidence.”
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“The families of the PS752 flight victims are committed to finding the truth and seeking justice,” wrote Hamed Esmaeilion, president of the Association of Victims’ Families, in Wednesday’s report.
In the report, he reiterates the association’s view that Canada and other countries that lost nationals on the plane should use “all available means, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), to bring the perpetrators of this crime before justice ”.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday to publish the report, Esmaeilion said the association calls for an impartial international investigation.
“There are still many unanswered questions. We must get the truth to achieve closure. Can’t I describe it? “What we have gone through over the last two years,” he said.
In an email to Global News on Wednesday, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said the government’s priority continues to be to support the families of the victims: “We will not rest until they receive the justice and responsibility they deserve.”
“The Government of Canada has received a copy of the family association report and is reviewing it,” said Grantly Franklin. “Canada and its partners in the coordination group are focused on holding Iran accountable in accordance with international law.
“Our position is that Iran is responsible for the crash of PS752 and has an international legal obligation to make full reparations to the affected countries.”
The International Coordination and Response Team for Victims of Flight PS752 also issued a statement regarding the report on Wednesday.
“We, the Ministers representing Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, express our deep disappointment that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not accepted our numerous requests to meet on November 22, 2021, to negotiate the issue of reparations for crash. of flight PS752 “, it is said in the statement.
“We remind the Islamic Republic of Iran that it must fulfill its international legal responsibility to make full reparations to the group of countries and thus reiterate our call to negotiate in good faith and to do so before the end of this year. .
“We will continue to show solidarity with the families and loved ones of the victims of PS752 in their deep loss and suffering. “They can be assured that the coordination group will remain united in its objective to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran accountable for this tragedy.”
The group’s statement also said that if Iran continues to “avoid negotiations with the group”, it “will have no choice but to seriously consider actions and other measures to resolve this issue within the framework of international law”.
– With files from Phil Heidenreich, Breanna Karstens-Smith, Global News
© 2021 Canadian Press
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