Pressure piles on Iran for downing Ukranian plane

Monday, January 13th, 2020 00:00 |
Iranian students protest the shooting down of the Ukraine International Airlines plane in Tehran, yesterday. Photo/AFP

Tehran, Sunday

Protesters piled pressure on Iran’s leadership on Sunday with demands for top authorities to quit after the Iranian military admitted it had mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner killing all 176 people aboard. 

“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” dozens of protesters outside a university in Tehran chanted. Scores of demonstrators were also shown gathered in other cities.

US President Donald Trump warned Iran against cracking down on protests. 

“The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people,” he tweeted.

“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you.”

“We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage...There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” he added.

Protests started on Saturday shortly after the Iranian military apologised for mistakenly bringing down the Ukrainian plane on Wednesday.

Tehran residents said police were out in force in the capital on Sunday, as public anger boiled up following days of denials by the military that it was to blame, even as Canada and the US said a missile had brought the plane down.

Riot police fired teargas at thousands of protesters in the capital on Saturday, where many had chanted “Death to the dictator”, directing their anger at the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Apologize and resign,” Iran’s moderate Etemad daily wrote in a banner headline on Sunday, saying the “people’s demand” was for those responsible for mishandling the plane crisis to quit.

The latest upsurge in anger adds to challenges facing the authorities, which launched a bloody crackdown in November to quell protests. The leadership is also struggling to keep the crippled economy afloat under rigorous US sanctions.

Disastrous mistake

The Ukraine International Airlines plane was shot down minutes after taking off from Tehran, when Iranian forces were on alert for US reprisals following tit-for-tat strikes. Many of those on board were Iranians with dual citizenship, while 57 were holders of Canadian passports.

Iran’s president said it was a “disastrous mistake” and apologized. But a top Revolutionary Guards commander added to public fury when he said he had told authorities on the same day that an Iranian missile had struck the plane.

The Guards’ top commander, Hossein Salami, said “we are more upset than anyone over the incident”.-AFP and Agencies

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