New investigation implicates top Iranian officials in the Flight PS752 downing

Amirabbas Ghasemi

The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims released its investigative report into the crash of Flight PS752 on November 24, 2021. The report accuses senior Iranian officials of attempting to cover up their responsibility in the downing of the aircraft. 

On January 8, 2020, Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran International Airport, Iran, killing 176 people and one unborn child. An operator of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), stationed in Bid Kaneh, was found to have fired two missiles from a Tor-M1 surface-to-air system, which brought down the aircraft. 

In its final report, the Civil Aviation Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran said that a mistake was made while setting up the radar of the missile system after a relocation. As a result, Flight PS752’s path was shown as heading straight for Tehran, rather than away from the city, at a time when the country’s air defense was on high alert.  

But the new report refutes claims from the Iranian government that the incident was due to a “human error” made while setting up a radar of the air defense system of Tehran. “The alleged 105-degree calibration error in finding true north orientation of the Tor-M1 missile system is highly unlikely and appears to be fabricated,” the report states.  

A piece of evidence submitted, based on the Tor-M1 technical specifications, states that the system is “designed to eliminate the need for manual calibration in war situations,” and thus would have found the right orientation automatically after being relocated. Additionally, an improper alignment of the radar would have likely resulted in the system missing its target. 

The report also points at several electronic devices that belonged to passengers and showed signs of being deliberately destroyed. “One likely explanation is that these electronics may have been bulldozed over in an attempt to destroy any potential evidence that victims recorded in the last minutes of their lives,” the investigation claims. Two days after the crash, pictures showed that the crash site had been cleared using a bulldozer. 

The association claims that civilian flight operations were deliberately left undisturbed to deter an attack from the United States military. Hours before the crash, the Iranian military had launched over 12 missiles on U.S. bases in Iraq, in reprisal of the death of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian special services, in a drone strike. “At the highest levels of military alertness, the government of Iran used passenger flights as human shield against possible American attacks, by deliberately not closing the airspace to civilian flights,” it says. 

Instead of an unfortunate incident, the association alleges that the downing was a deliberate act. “The intentional act of keeping Iranian airspace open, the technical capabilities of the Tor-M1 system and Iran’s integrated defence network in detecting hostile targets, the positioning of the Tor-M1 system near Tehran’s international airport, the systematic concealment of the root cause of the crash, the destruction of existing evidence, and Iran’s misleading reports, all indicate that the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 was deliberate.” 

In May 2021, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the missiles that shot down the Ukraine International Flight PS752 in Iran were fired intentionally in an act of terrorism. 

Following the publication of the new investigative report, the International Coordination Group for Victims of Flight PS752 issued a joint statement: 

“We, the ministers representing Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, are deeply disappointed that the Islamic Republic of Iran has not accepted our numerous offers to meet on [November 22, 2021] to negotiate reparations for the downing of PS752. 

[…] If Iran continues to avoid negotiations with the group, the Coordination Group will have no choice but to seriously consider other actions and measures to address this issue under international law. “ 

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