A new report accuses Iranian authorities of tampering with electronic devices and misidentifying the remains of some passengers who died on Ukrainian airline flight 752.
The findings are one of the new revelations in a comprehensive report from the Association of the Families of Flight PS752 Victims investigating the shooting down of the commercial plane on January 8, 2020 by the Iranian military.
All 176 people on board the plane to Kiev were killed when the Boeing 737-800 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps minutes after takeoff from Tehran airport.
The dead included 55 Canadian citizens, 30 permanent residents and dozens of others en route to Canada, as well as nationals of Britain, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Sweden.
Iran initially lied about the cause of the tragedy in the days that followed, but eventually admitted to shooting down the plane.
The new report says several cellphones and tablets belonging to dead passengers showed signs of tampering in what could be an attempt to cover up the cause of the crash.
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“One likely explanation is that these electronics may have been knocked over in an attempt to destroy possible evidence that victims recorded in the last minutes of their lives,” the report says.
The families called in Mark Mendelson, a retired Toronto police detective, whose consulting firm examined a laptop and returned cell phones to the families. He concluded that the devices showed “evidence of human tampering” and showed no signs of firing patterns or other signs of damage consistent with the plane crashing into the ground.
“The lack of these memory/data components is inconsistent with damage caused by a sudden and hard impact. In addition, the fact that screws were removed and lids pry open strongly suggests that concerted efforts were made to extract these components, making an assessment of the data impossible.”
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The report also says Iranian authorities have botched the identification of some of the victims, a revelation that will only add to the pain and suffering of their loved ones.
“The association has obtained evidence that DNA tests on the bodies of some victims did not match their identification by Iranian authorities,” the report said.
“This negligence by the government of Iran has had serious psychological consequences for families, some of whom have not received the whole bodies of their loved ones and instead received the remains of other victims.”
The report accused the Iranian authorities of a “systematic cover-up” of the cause of the crash.
Iran blames ‘human error’ for downing Ukrainian plane
The plane was shot down during a period of high tension after Iran launched missile strikes on bases in Iraq where US troops were stationed. Iran said it was retaliating for a US drone strike that killed Iran’s top military commander days earlier.
The report says Iran’s claim that it was closing its western airspace as a preventive measure was false, as tracking data from flights before the tragedy showed other passenger planes in the sky.
The report also says that a leaked audio file of a meeting between Iran’s former foreign minister with other top officials, including senior military figures, shows an attempt “to publicly spread the story that Flight PS752 had crashed due to a technical malfunction.” “.
Wednesday’s report builds on previous criticisms the Canadian authorities have leveled at the Iranian regime, including the fact that it had been chasing for months before the flight recorders were released.
In March, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization blamed “human error” for the incident, saying that an operator fired two surface-to-air missiles after misidentifying the Boeing 737-800 as an “enemy target” and despite did not get a green light from superiors, per procedure.
The Canadian government rejected the Iranian report, calling it “incomplete” and devoid of “hard facts or evidence”.
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“The families of the victims of flight PS752 are determined to find the truth and seek justice,” Hamed Esmaeilion, president of the Victims’ Families Association, wrote in Wednesday’s report.
In the report, he reiterated the association’s position that Canada and the other countries that have lost nationals to the aircraft, “should use all available resources, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC), to prosecute the perpetrators of this crime to justice.”
At a press conference Wednesday to release the report, Esmaeilion said the association is demanding an impartial, international investigation.
“There are still many unanswered questions. We need to find out the truth to get the closure. I can not describe? what we’ve been through in the past two years,” he said.
© 2021 The Canadian Press