Iran makes arrests over Ukrainian plane crash

14 January 2020, 09:28

Hassan Rouhani President of Iran (left) and site of the Ukrainian air crash.
Hassan Rouhani President of Iran (left) and site of the Ukrainian air crash. Picture: PA

Iran's judiciary says arrests have been made over the shooting down of a Ukrainian plane that killed 176 people after the country's president called the downing of the aircraft an "unforgivable error."

Iran has promised to "punish" those responsible for plane crash with President Hassan Rouhani saying on Tuesday that the "tragic event" would be investigated thoroughly, claiming "one person cannot be solely responsible for the crash."

"Iranian armed forces admitting their mistake is a good first step," he added.

He said his government was "accountable to Iranian and other nations who lost lives" and that Iran should "assure people that it will not happen again."

Mr Rouhani has called for a special court to be set up to probe the downing of the passenger jet by Iranian forces.

"This is not an ordinary case," he said in a speech televised in Iran. "The entire the world will be watching this court."

The comments come after Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei called for an investigation following his country's military announcement at the weekend that it "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian International Airlines plane that crashed earlier this week.

The Iranian government had previously denied responsibility for the tragedy that killed all 176 people on board - with Iran state television initially reporting that the plane had experienced "technical problems" after leaving Imam Khomeini airport.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said that Iran's admission that it shot down a passenger plane by mistake "reinforces the need of deescalating tensions in the region."

Meanwhile, an Iran judiciary spokesman said some people had been arrested for their role in the crash - but gave no further details.

The Boeing 737 jetliner was shot down on January 8 just hours after Iran launched a missile attack on two military bases in Iraq housing US troops.

The attacks were in response to the death of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani who was killed by the US in an airstrike in Baghdad.