Protests over downed jet rage in Iran, as other nations seek redress

  • >> Ben Hubbard, The New York Times
    Published: 2020-01-14 00:26:25 BdST

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Mourners at a vigil at Amirkabir University for the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines crash, in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 11, 2020. A top Iranian military commander made a rare public appeal for forgiveness on Jan. 12 as security forces fired on protesters and outrage over the mistaken downing of a jetliner reignited opposition on the streets and stirred dissent within the government’s conservative base. (Arash Khamooshi/The New York Times)

Protesters and riot police faced off in at least two cities in Iran on Monday, a third day of angry demonstrations at the country’s leaders after the government acknowledged having shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing 176 people.

The protests are the most recent spillover from escalating regional tensions between the United States and Iran that built up to President Donald Trump’s decision to kill a high-ranking Iranian general and Iran’s firing missiles at US forces in Iraq in response.

After days of denials, Iran acknowledged early Saturday it had shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight Wednesday, blaming the attack on human error. But the government’s obfuscation has angered many Iranians.

Videos from inside Iran shared on social media Monday showed university students in Isfahan and the capital, Tehran, chanting against the country’s clerical rulers while riot police deployed nearby.

Activists protest against Iranian government in front of German Federal Foreign Office after a Ukrainian passenger plane crashed in Iran, in Berlin, Germany, January 13, 2020. Reuters

Activists protest against Iranian government in front of German Federal Foreign Office after a Ukrainian passenger plane crashed in Iran, in Berlin, Germany, January 13, 2020. Reuters

The extent of the protests and the amount of violence used to try to stop them were hard to assess because of tight restrictions on social media and the news media inside the country. Videos from previous days have shown protesters carrying off bleeding comrades while gunshots echoed in the background.

Authorities in Iran denied that security forces had opened fire.

“At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint,” Hossein Rahimi, head of Tehran’s police, said Monday, according to state-run news media.

Iran may also face demands for compensation from nations whose citizens were killed on the plane, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko of Ukraine told Reuters on Monday in an interview in Singapore.

“We have created this group of foreign ministers from the grieving nations. On Jan. 16, we will meet in person in London to discuss the ways, including legal, how we are following this up, how we are prosecuting them,” Prystaiko said, referring to the Iranians.

The talks would include five nations, he said: Canada, which lost 57 citizens; Ukraine; Afghanistan; Sweden and another country he did not identify.

They and other nations have pushed for greater international involvement in the investigation of how the crash happened, and Prystaiko said Tehran had agreed to hand over the jet’s black boxes for analysis but had yet to set a date to do so.

c.2020 The New York Times Company