Iran announces arrests over airliner crash
Trudeau blames US 'escalation' for jet fatalities
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that all those accountable for the accidental downing of the civilian Ukrainian aircraft last week must be punished.
"For our people it is very important in this incident that anyone who was at fault or negligent at any level" face justice, said Rouhani in a televised speech, adding that the “tragic event” would be thoroughly investigated.
He described the fatal incident “a painful and unforgivable” mistake and promised that his government would pursue the case “by all means.”
“The responsibility falls on more than just one person,” said the president, adding that those found culpable “should be punished.”
“There are others, too, and I want this issue to be expressed honestly,” he said, without elaborating.
Rouhani also called for a special court to probe the tragic incident.
"The Judiciary must form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts...This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court.”
Arrests in airliner case
Meanwhile, Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said “extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested.” He did not say how many individuals had been detained or named.
The Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed after it was “unintentionally” targeted by Iranian air defense shortly after takeoff from Tehran last Wednesday, killing all passengers and crew on board.
On Saturday, Iran’s military said that the jetliner was brought down due to “human error”.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 176 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians — including many Iranians with dual citizenship — and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.
The plane was downed at a time when Iran's Armed Forces were on heightened alert after launching a volley of missiles at Iraqi bases housing US troops.
Iran fired the missiles in retaliation for the US assassination of Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) on January 3.
Addressing that issue on Tuesday, Rouhani said while "the root of all sorrows goes back to America... this cannot be a reason for us not to look into all the root causes" of the air disaster.
He called the government’s admission of Iranian forces’ downing of the plane a “good first step.”
“Iranian Armed Forces’ admission of their mistake is a good first step ... We need to assure people that this will not happen again,” he said, adding that his government is “accountable to Iranian and other nationals who lost lives in the plane crash”.
Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC’s Aerospace Division, said over the weekend that his unit takes full responsibility for the incident. He said when he learned about the downing of the plane, “I wished I were dead.”
The president also demanded officials explain why it took time for authorities to announce the real cause of the air disaster.
"They must explain the whole process. From Wednesday morning when the incident happened until the meeting on Friday night of the Supreme National Security Council. They must explain this whole process to the people," said Rouhani.
"But more important than anything else, in my opinion, is that our people must be assured that such incident will not be repeated."
Iran has invited experts from Canada, France, Ukraine and the United States to take part in the probe into the disaster.
On Monday night, Canada's Transportation Safety Board said its investigators who flew to Tehran would be granted access to the wreckage and black box flight recorders of the downed airliner.
"There have been early signs that Iran is allowing the TSB to play a more active role than is normally permitted," its chair Kathy Fox said.
Trudeau on US 'escalation'
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday victims of the Ukrainian jetliner would still be alive if not for the recent escalation of tensions partly triggered by the United States.
"I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families," Trudeau said in an interview.
The Canadian PM said the international community had to “manage the tensions in the region that are brought about by US actions”.
He said Canada did not receive a heads-up before the US targeted killing of Gen. Soleimani, and that he “obviously” would have preferred one.
“The US makes its determinations. We attempt to work as an international community on big issues. But sometimes countries take actions without informing their allies,” he complained.
Trudeau said that while the government was working as quickly as possible to bring the bodies home for burial, it was likely to take weeks or “perhaps even months.”
AFP, AP, Reuters, Press TV and Daily Mail contributed to this story.