DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian state media on Monday published photographs of the trial investigating the shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger jet in 2020 by the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, trying to tamp down criticism of the largely closed-door proceeding.
The Mizan news agency, an arm of the country’s judiciary, showed pictures of the inside of the military courtroom, with at least one man and a woman holding up pictures identified as victims of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight No. PS752. Missile strikes killed all 176 people on board the Jan. 3, 2020 flight.
But online, people reacted angrily to an image of a judge sitting in front of a large sign that euphemistically read: “The court reviewing the incident of flight PS752 Ukraine.” They called on the court to clearly state that the plane had been shot down by the Guard.
The state-run IRNA news agency said the trial that began Sunday will see 10 suspects tried. Iranian media have not identified those charged and some photos published by Mizan had individuals’ faces blurred out.
An association of the victims’ families also criticized the hearing, saying in a Facebook post that they “don’t recognize the court.” They also alleged that none of the defendants were present at Sunday’s hearing.
Following three days of denial in January 2020 in the face of mounting evidence, Iran finally acknowledged that the Guard mistakenly downed the Ukrainian jetliner with two surface-to-air missiles. In preliminary reports on the disaster last year, Iranian authorities blamed an air defense operator who they said mistook the Boeing 737-800 for an American cruise missile.
The shootdown happened the same day Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for an American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general. While Guard officials publicly apologized for the incident, the hesitancy of Iran to elaborate on what happened in the incident shows the power the force wields.