A military trial of 10 individuals in connection with the Revolutionary Guards’ downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 took place in Tehran on Sunday, November 2021. Images and videos posted online show that family members of some of the 176 people killed in the crash on January 8, 2020 were left outside in the street.
Family members held up pictures of their loved ones outside the courthouse at the Ghasr Intersection, and despite the threat of reprisal from Iran’s security agencies, chanted slogans including "Death to Khamenei" and "Death to the Islamic Republic".
Hamed Esmaeilion, a spokesman for the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, who lost his wife Parisa and daughter Reera in the disaster, wrote on Sunday: “The Flight 752 military trial will begin in Tehran in a few hours. An embarrassing show with 10 low-ranking officers as defendants. The dock will be waiting for the main agents [responsible]: Ali Khamenei, IRGC commanders, and members of the Supreme National Security Council. It will not be far away."
Javad Soleimani, whose wife was killed in the crash, also called the trial a "show". “A court that doesn’t convict Ali Khamenei and members of the Supreme National Security Council for keeping the airspace open after an attack on the United States, and firing several missiles at innocent passengers, is nothing more than a circus,” he wrote. “The prosecution continues."
Another grieving family member gave their account of security forces’ intervention in the protest on Sunday. “They are terrified,” they wrote. “Terrified of #PS752 fathers who have seen their children burn in the Iranian sky, and the mothers who have nothing to lose. They have besieged the protesters so the slogan of ‘Death to Khamenei’ is not heard in front of the court. A prosecution is imminent in an international court."
Flight 752 was shot down over Tehran by two missiles fired by the Revolutionary Guards in the early hours of January 8 last year. The incident came shortly after the assassination of former IRGC Quds Force commander Ghasem Soleimani and an attack on a US military base. For three days the government sought to cover up the atrocity, but pressure from the international community eventually forced the IRGC to acknowledge it.
Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, described the incident as the result of "human error": a claim roundly rejected by the governments of Ukraine and Canada. In the latter country a civil court has since ruled the shooting-down was a “deliberate act of terror”.
In July 2021, Shokrollah Bahrami, head of the Armed Forces’ Judicial Organization, issued a 200-page dossier of evidence against 10 defendants. A full 600 days after the downing of PS752 families received a statement from Tehran Military Prosecutor’s Office saying the 10 would remain anonymous, and other state entities – including the IRGC, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Supreme National Security Council and the Civil Defense Organization – would not be a party to proceedings. The Association of Families holds that only a neutral, international tribunal will be able to serve justice and accountability for what it describes as “mass murder”.
Last week, shortly before the military trial got under way, a new video was released of Amir Ali Hajizadeh claiming that he was not in Tehran on the day of the crash. Further, he said on camera, “It took them 48 hours to analyse the situation and find out that it [the shooting down] had happened and must be announced... The order to shoot was not issued, but [the person who fired] was put in such a position as to believe so. The circumstances ought to be clarified by the judiciary.” But he also claimed the attack on PS752 was carried out to prevent "increasing tensions between Iran and the United States".