Late on Tuesday night, the Canadian CBC news network broadcast a special item in which it stated the Canadian government and the Canadian Security Agency were examining an audio file in which Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, suggested Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was deliberately shot out of the sky last year.
On January 8, 2020, the passenger plane was downed over Tehran by two missiles fired by the Revolutionary Guards, killing all 176 people on board. The Islamic Republic denied the incident for three days, attributing the incident to a technical defect, before later admitting a member of the Guards had been responsible but considered it “human error”.
In the audio file, which has been shared with Canadian media, Mohammad Javad Zarif raises the possibility that the IRGC deliberately fired on the passenger plane. IranWire spoke to Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife and daughter were killed aboard Flight 752, about the latest revelations.
According to the Canadian network CBC, an audio file has emerged in which a person identified as Mohammad Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, says it is “not at all unlikely” that two or three people intentionally shot down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752.
In the recording, the man believed to be Zarif talks about the possibility of these people being “intruders” and conceding that the truth would never be revealed by those at the highest levels of Iran’s government and military.
"There are reasons they will never be revealed," he is reported to have said, in Persian. "They won't tell us, nor anyone else, because if they do it will open some doors into the defence systems of the country that will not be in the interest of the nation to publicly say."
Hamed Esmaeilion is a writer living in Canada whose wife Parisa Eghbalian and daughter Reera were among those killed aboard Flight 752 on January 8, and who now acts as spokesman for the families’ international campaign for justice. "From the beginning,” he tells IranWire, “there have been different narratives about the downing of the plane.
“Almost all the victims’ families believe the shooting was intentional. The Islamic Republic first raised the issue of technical defects and lied for three days straight; sometime later they said it was ‘human error’. Then [in a military prosecutor’s ruling in January 2021] incorrect adjustment of the defense system was raised, and then they said there was a system error.
“But in this audio file, Mohammad Javad Zarif himself, who happens to be the Islamic Republic's chief negotiator in the case, assumes that the plane was deliberately shot down and admits that the truth will never be established."
According to CBC, in the audio file Zarif also points to Russia as an example of a country that was accused of involvement in shooting down a plane (Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in 2014) but never admitted to it.
Several countries including Canada are involved in active negotiations over possible compensation for the families of Flight 752 victims, and securing a formal apology from the Islamic Republic. “But,” Hamed Esmaeilion says, "the most important and fundamental part of this is telling the truth.
“This audio file – and the subtle utterances made in a private meeting – clarify two things. One is that this person, this team and the government of the Islamic Republic are not disposed to telling the truth. The other is that what Zarif says in formal conversations with other countries is different from what he might say to someone in private. He has spoken of ‘human error’ in all the formal negotiations but here, he says there are ‘a thousand possibilities’ and intentional downing of the plane is ‘not at all unlikely’.”
Hamed Esmaeilion is emphatic that in cases such as these, there is no imperative greater than the truth. "It’s not up to us what will happen to your defense system after telling the truth. You have to tell the truth, and if not, you’ll be forced to.”
He refers here to decision by some victims’ families to try to prosecute the perpetrators of the incident in the international courts. A few days ago, the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims called on the public for support in the litigation attempt and raised more than $100,000 in donations within 48 hours.
"In a month and a half to two months, the Islamic Republic’s final report [on the incident] will be published,” Esmaeilion says. “It will consider its legal responsibilities to have been met on that day, and the ball will be in the court of the other countries. We know for a fact that they will not be satisfied with the final report.
“Today’s audio file shows that will not have told the truth. The other countries must first negotiate according to law to push the Islamic Republic to tell the truth, and if this comes to nothing, the case will be heard both by the International Civil Aviation Organization and at the International Court of Justice.
“Zarif is afraid the of case going to the international courts. He says, ‘Let's close the case by paying compensation’. They want to end this nightmare in any way they can."
The Canadian government has been reviewing the audio file since last November, according to CBC. The identities of the other two people heard speaking in the file have not been revealed, and a Canadian official has stated that their identities were not disclosed for their own safety.