Iran imprisons protesters over Ukraine airplane disaster

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Brigadier General Qassam Soleimani

Brigadier General Qassam Soleimani

IRGC – Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

IRGC – Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

IRGC-Qods Force

IRGC-Qods Force

Iran has imprisoned at least 13 people since April for protesting against the shooting down of a passenger jet by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to the group Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In a report published on its website, HRW accused the Iranian authorities of “dodging accountability” and “refusing to provide details” about the disaster, while “wasting no time” in bringing prosecutions against people protesting against Iran’s handling of the episode.

The IRGC shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 5, 2020, minutes after it had taken off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing all 176 people on board.

Iran initially denied involvement, before stating on Jan. 11 that the plane was caught in the crossfire of the Iranian military response to the assassination of IRGC commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani by a US drone at Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3 and was shot down in error.

The widespread protests in the country in response to the admission were met with a crackdown described as “brutal” by observers, including HRW.

On Jan. 14, the spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said that at least 30 people had been arrested for their part in the protests.

HRW revealed the details of several people who were subsequently convicted. They included Mostafa Hashemizadeh, a student at the University of Tehran who was sentenced to five years in prison, three months of community service and 74 lashes for “assembly and collusion to disrupt national security.”

Another University of Tehran student, Amir Mohammad Sharifi, was sentenced to six months for “propaganda against the state,” which he said stemmed from him photographing police officers. HRW added that 11 people were sentenced to 8 months in prison for “propaganda against the state, chanting slogans against the Islamic Republic of Iran, and taking photos and videos” at a vigil for the victims of the plane in the city of Amol, in Mazandran province.

Michael Page, HRW’s deputy Middle East director, said: “Iranian authorities are following their usual playbook of dodging accountability. While refusing to provide details about any investigation of culpability for the deadly mistake, judicial officials are wasting no time in sentencing people who protested the loss of 176 lives.

“Instead of prosecuting those who exercised their right to free expression and peaceful assembly, the Iranian authorities should conduct a transparent investigation and cooperate with international bodies to find out exactly what happened in this tragedy.”

Despite admitting culpability, Iran has so far failed to cooperate with the international community over investigating the shooting down of Flight 752 and has not allowed other countries access to evidence or to the site of the crash.

On March 11, according to HRW, Iran’s delegation to the International Civil Aviation Organization “agreed to send black boxes from (the) downed Ukrainian jetliner to Kiev for analysis,” but said that they had failed to materialize.

So far, no one has been charged for their role in the incident, and Iranian politicians have speculated that prosecutions remain unlikely.

Of the “unspecified” number of IRGC members and others initially arrested, only one remains in custody, according to Shokrallah Bahrami, head of Iran’s Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces.

Source » arabnews

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