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Compensation talks for victims of downed jetliner to start in October: Iran

Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, on January 8, 2020. The head of Iran's civil aviation organization says his government will launch compensation talks in October with Canada and other countries that lost citizens when the Iranian military shot down a civilian jetliner earlier this year. Touraj Dehqani Zangeneh made the comments to Iran's official news agency over the weekend amid new Iranian claims about what happened on Jan. 8, when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was downed shortly after takeoff from Tehran.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ebrahim Noroozi
August 23, 2020 - 9:00 PM

OTTAWA - The head of Iran's civil aviation organization says his government will launch compensation talks in October with Canada and other countries that lost citizens when the Iranian military shot down a civilian jetliner earlier this year.

Touraj Dehqani Zangeneh made the comments to Iran's official news agency over the weekend amid new Iranian claims about the circumstances surrounding the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 on Jan. 8.

Speaking to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Dehqani Zangeneh said the Iranian government was prepared to fully compensate the families of the 176 people killed in the crash, which included 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents.

Iran initially denied responsibility before admitting, in the face of mounting evidence and international pressure, that the plane — which was on the first leg of a flight from Iran to Canada via Ukraine — went down after being hit by two Iranian missiles.

"What is evident is that Iran has accepted the responsibility for its mistake and therefore the country is ready for negotiations on paying full compensation for what (it has) done," Dehqani Zangeneh was quoted as saying to IRNA.

Canada, along with the other countries that lost citizens on Flight PS752 — Britain, Sweden, Afghanistan and Ukraine — signed an agreement July 2 promising to work together to force Iran to pay compensation to the victims' families.

News of the planned compensation talks came as the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran published a statement from Dehqani Zangeneh in Persian on Sunday about the data downloaded from the Boeing 737's flight and voice recorders.

The so-called black boxes have emerged as a focal point in efforts to fully understand the circumstances surrounding the downing of Flight PS752, with Iran dragging its feet for months before finally transferring them to France for downloading last month.

The recorders had only 19 seconds of conversation after the first explosion, Dehqani Zangeneh's statement said, even though the second missile hit the plane 25 seconds later.

Cabin crewmembers were still alive after the first missile struck and "noticed unusual circumstances," according to the statement, which added that Canadian officials were present while the data obtained from the recorders was analyzed in France.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told The Canadian Press in an interview Sunday that he was still being briefed on the findings.

An association representing the families of those killed on board Flight PS752 dismissed Dehqani Zangeneh's statement, saying it raised more questions than answers, including why the Iranian anti-aircraft unit fired a second missile at the airliner.

"Our important questions regarding the reason for the delayed takeoff and the pilot’s communications within that hour, which should have been included in the report of the black boxes, have also been left conspicuously unanswered," the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims said in a statement.

Many victims' families have dismissed from the start the Iranian government's claims about the circumstances surrounding the jetliner's downing, and called instead for an independent investigation to ensure those responsible are held to account.

They have also said that any talk about compensation must be preceded by uncovering the truth of what happened.

Flight PS752 was shot down the same night Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq — a response to the American drone strike that killed a prominent Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

An Iranian report last month blamed a number of errors for what it suggested was an avoidable tragedy, starting with the surface-to-air missile battery that targeted the Boeing 737-800 having been relocated and not properly reoriented.

Those manning the missile battery also could not communicate with their command centre, the report said. They also misidentified the civilian flight as a threat and opened fire twice without getting approval from ranking officials.

The report did not say why the Iranian military moved the air-defence system, but noted the Ukrainian flight had done nothing out of the ordinary up until the missile launch, with its transponder and other data being broadcast.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 23, 2020.

—with files from The Associated Press
News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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