Iran’s judiciary announced prison sentences for ten unnamed individuals involved in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 in January 2020. The prime suspect, identified only as the commander of the Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile defence system responsible for shooting down the plane, received a maximum 10-year prison sentence and must pay compensation to the victims’ families.
Two personnel operating the missile system each received one-year sentences, while other Tehran air defense controls and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) aerospace division officials received one to three-year sentences. All sentences, issued after 20 court sessions, are preliminary and can be appealed. A military court has also been ordered to continue investigations for other potentially involved individuals.
Flight PS752 was shot down minutes after taking off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on January 8, 2020. Iranian authorities initially denied that the plane was shot down but admitted to the “disastrous mistake” three days later, attributing it to “human error.” The incident occurred shortly after the IRGC fired missiles at two United States bases in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of top IRGC commander General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone.
Families of the victims, along with officials in Ukraine and Canada, have criticized Iran for a lack of transparency and cooperation. A Canadian court ruled in 2021 that the downing was an “act of terrorism” and granted tens of millions of dollars to some of the victims’ families, which could be taken from Iranian assets in Canada. Iran’s government had previously set compensation of $150,000 for each of the victims’ families, though it is unclear how much has been paid.
Victims’ families have dismissed the recent sentencing as a “sham ruling,” claiming that Iranian authorities have not prosecuted those ultimately responsible for the disaster. The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims demands the dispute be considered by the International Court of Justice.
Image Credit: Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA via Reuters