Iran's President Says Downing Ukrainian Plane an 'Unforgivable Error'

Judiciary spokesman says several people arrested for their role in the crash, which led to anti-government protests

Mourners attend an outdoor vigil for the victims of a Ukrainian passenger jet which crashed in Iran, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, January 9, 2020.
Chris Helgren/Reuters

Iran will punish all those responsible for the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane, President Hassan Rohani said in a televised speech on Tuesday, adding that the "tragic event" would be investigated thoroughly.

"It was an unforgivable error ... one person cannot be solely responsible for the plane crash," he said.

"Iranian armed forces admitting their mistake is a good first step ... We should assure people that it will not happen again," he said, adding that his government was "accountable to Iranian and other nations who lost lives in the plane crash".

Some people have been arrested for their role in the crash of the plane that Tehran said was accidentally hit by an Iranian missile, judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said.

He did not give further details.

The crash of the Ukraine International Airline early on Wednesday killed all 176 people on board, mostly Iranians and Iranian-Canadians. After pointing to a technical failure and insisting for three days that the Iranian armed forces were not to blame, authorities on Saturday admitted accidentally shooting it down in the face of mounting evidence and accusations by Western leaders.

Iran downed the flight as it braced for possible American retaliation after firing ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. forces earlier on Wednesday. The missile attack, which caused no casualties, was a response to the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. But no retaliation came.

Iranians have expressed anger over the downing of the plane and the misleading explanations from senior officials in the wake of the tragedy. They are also mourning the dead, which included many young people who were studying abroad.