(Bloomberg) — Iran’s judiciary sentenced 10 members of its air defense forces to between one and 13 years in prison for their involvement in shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane near Tehran in 2020, state media reported.
In a statement published on Sunday, Mizan Online, the official news portal for Iran’s judiciary, didn’t name any of the individuals and said the verdicts had been reached after 20 court hearings and “detailed investigations” over three years.
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The main defendant in the trial, described as “the commander of the Tor M-1 defense system,” was sentenced to three years in prison for the involuntary manslaughter of the 176 passengers and crew aboard Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752. He was handed a further 10 years for ignoring protocol and the “scale of the consequences of his actions.”
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The Boeing 737-800 plane was shot down by a unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps minutes after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on the morning of Jan. 8, 2020.
The disaster sparked outrage and protests in Iran at the time and continues to fuel dissent, most notably during the recent protests against the Islamic Republic’s religious establishment and government.
Officials initially claimed the Ukrainian jet crashed because of technical problems before admitting days later that an IRGC missile operative had fired two missiles at the jet because he allegedly mistook it for a cruise missile.
The incident happened within hours of Iran carrying out a “revenge operation” against the US for its assassination of a top Iranian general a week earlier, sparking concerns of an outright conflict between the two countries.
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The indictment lists a number of failures by the main defendant that it attributes to “ignorance and a mistaken belief that the target was hostile.” The failures include basic errors in navigation and communication, including a lack of any effort to consult the command post to establish the identity of the target.