The Iranian government claims it has made several arrests in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752.
Gholamhossein Esmaili, a spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary, announced the arrests without providing further details, the Reuters news agency reported.
Esmaili also said that Iran would send the plane’s black boxes to France for analysis. A day earlier, on Jan. 13, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told Reuters that a senior Iranian investigator would visit Ukraine in the coming days to determine whether a local laboratory was suitable for analyzing the black boxes.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country would form a special court to investigate the plane’s downing, according to the Iranian ILNA agency.
The announcements came just days after Iran admitted that its forces had accidentally shot down the civilian airliner, which Rouhani termed a “great tragedy” and “unforgivable mistake.”
The Iranian leader promised to identify and prosecute the guilty parties.
On Jan. 8, Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 took off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran. Several minutes later, it crashed roughly 20 kilometers north of the capital, killing all 176 people on board. Initially, Iran blamed the crash on engine issues on the plane.
In the wake of the crash, Ukraine dispatched 45 specialists and other government officials to Tehran to take part in the Iranian investigation. Ukrainian investigators quickly came to understand that the plane had been shot down, but refrained from publicizing this information to avoid antagonizing Iran, the Washington Post reported.
However, over the next two days, evidence began to mount that Iran was responsible for the crash.
On Jan. 9, several Western media reported that intelligence from multiple countries indicated that an Iranian missile had downed the airliner. Soon, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that both Canadian and allied intelligence indicated that Iran had shot down the plane.
On Jan. 11, Iran admitted as much.
On Jan. 14, Ukrainian rescuers finished their work on the ground in Tehran. A search and rescue team, interior ministry experts and National Police investigators returned home from Tehran, the State Emergency Situations Service announced.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the bodies of the 11 Ukrainian victims of the crash — nine crew members and two passengers — to be repatriated by Jan. 19.
“I insist on immediately completing identification of the bodies and their return to Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter on Jan. 11 after speaking with Rouhani. “The perpetrators must be held accountable.”