TEHRAN: Iran's judiciary said Tuesday it had arrested "some people" over the crash of a Ukrainian plane mistakenly shot down by Iran's military."
The accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane shortly after the missile attack on US air bases in Iraq killed all 176 people on board just after takeoff from Tehran last week.
The announcement came amid an upswell of anger and protests by Iranians in recent days over the downing of the jetliner last Wednesday and apparent attempts by senior officials in Iran to cover-up the cause of the crash.
Iran, which initially dismissed allegations that a missile had brought down the plane, acknowledged only on Saturday — three days after and in the face of mounting evidence — that its Revolutionary Guard had shot down the plane by mistake as the force braced for a possible military confrontation with the United States.
The incident raised questions about why Iran did not shut down its international airport or airspace the day it was on alert for U.S. military retaliation.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying that “extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested.” His statement on the judiciary’s website did not specify how many individuals had been detained or name them.
Iran’s President on Tuesday said the government will set up a special court to probe the incident. “The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts,” President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech televised in Iran.
“This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court.” adding that everyone responsible in the accident must be punished.
While Rouhani pointed to mistakes and negligence, he also repeated the government’s line that the tragedy was ultimately rooted in U.S. aggression.“It was the U.S. that made for an agitated environment. It was the U.S. that created an unusual situation. It was the U.S. that threatened and took our beloved (Soleimani),” he said (with inputs from AP)