WANA – The fourth hearing on the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 international civilian passenger flight from Tehran to Kyiv by some members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was held on Saturday.


The judge Ebrahim Mehranfar led the court of flight PS752 as the accused have yet to be known publicly. Ten accused persons from different military ranks attended the hearing. The bill of indictment was read and some lawyers defending the families of the victims indicated some points relevant to the case.


On January 8, 2020, flight PS752, the Boeing 737-800 flying the route was mistakenly shot down shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 passengers and crew aboard, a tragic incident which was met by awe and sorrow both in Iran and throughout the world. The event took place amidst heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.

Rescue team carries a body at the site where the Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed after take-off from Iran’s Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency)

The incident happened five days after the United States carried out the assassination of Major General Qasem Soleimani and some hours after Iran retaliated with Operation Martyr Soleimani, in which the IRGC fired dozens of ballistic missiles on American-led coalition forces; both the assassination and the missile strikes occurred in Iraq.


Iranian authorities initially denied having any responsibility for the aircraft’s destruction, but three days later said the denial was out of expediency regarding the critical condition of that time and the possibility of imminent widespread attack by the U.S. after the threats made by President Donald Trump against Iran.

Debris of a plane belonging to Ukraine International Airlines, that crashed after taking off from Iran’s Imam Khomeini airport, is seen on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency)

Later investigations proved that the plane had been struck by two Russian-made Tour M1 surface-to-air missiles. On January 11, 2020, the Iranian administration admitted that the IRGC had targeted Flight 752 after mistakenly identifying it as an American cruise missile. However, the announcement triggered a wave of Iranian protests for some days.


The IRGC took the responsibility of the incident saying that was the result of human error and misaligned air defense system giving wrong information to its operators, who did not seek authorization to fire. A report from Iran’s civil aviation organization (CAO) released at the weekend said missile defense operators stationed near Tehran had failed to recalibrate their systems after moving a battery that morning while on high alert for American reprisals for Iranian missile attacks on U.S. troops stationed in Iraq a few hours earlier.


Based on the report, as a result of the “human error”, the radar system was 107 degrees off in detecting the trajectory of the Ukrainian jet, giving one of the missile operators the impression it was moving in a direction that made it more likely to be a hostile object.

The tragic incident tormented the families of the victims and Iran held the pre-trial of those charged for shooting down the plane began in 2020, a process which has been continued by now, although many families are not yet satisfied with the proceedings, the Iranian judiciary officials have asserted that justice will be served on this case. In the meantime, Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom whose civilians were among the victims, issued a joint statement to hold Iran accountable based on international law.


Some even went to that far to claim the plane was intentionally shot down by IRGC, but considering the situation it couldn’t be in the benefit of the military officials and Iran particularly on that critical situation which could bring further accusations and countermeasures.


It should be noted that was not the first time that a civilian flight was mistakenly shot down by military forces in a war zone and some cases are still unresolved. On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655, a scheduled passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai via Bandar Abbas that was shot down allegedly mistakenly by two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired by the USS Vincennes, a guided-missile cruiser of the United States Navy.

The aircraft, an Airbus A300, was destroyed and all 290 people on board including 66 children under 13 were killed. The jet was hit while flying over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, along the flight’s usual route, shortly after departing Bandar Abbas International Airport, the flight’s stopover location. The attack occurred during the Iran–Iraq War, which had been continuing for nearly eight years. Vincennes had entered Iranian territory after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats operating within Iranian territorial limits.


The truth is the Iranians are still sorrowful and frustrated of the fact that the government initially hide the truth and were not honest to them. On the other hand, they are criticizing the long legal process of serving justice for victim’s families who are still looking at the process suspiciously.


The Iranian officials claim that they are approved of the legal investigation of the case of Flight PS752 and what has angered Tehran is the political game they say is played on the pretext of a plane crash.

Red Crescent workers check plastic bags at the site where the Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed after take-off from Iran’s Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran January 8, 2020. Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA (West Asia News Agency)