General view of the debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran Jan. 8, 2020 is seen in this screen grab obtained from a social media video via (REUTERS)

Do not resume flights in Iranian airspace, demand families of downed Flight 752

The families of those who died in the destruction of Flight 752 are calling on European and international airlines to call off any talks with the Iranian government on resuming flights in the country’s airspace until Tehran fully cooperates with the investigation and punishes those behind the attack.

The Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was brought down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile minutes after it took off from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on Jan. 8, 2020. The crash killed all 176 people on board, including 55 Canadians.

After initially denying any responsibility for downing the aircraft, Tehran was forced to admit that it “unintentionally” shot down the civilian airliner, claiming its air defence units mistook it for a U.S. cruise missile.

The association of the families of victims of the doomed flight has launched an online petition calling on Lufthansa to refrain from using air corridors over Iran after reports in the Iranian media that a group of European airlines led by the German carrier have held extensive talks on the matter with the Islamic Republic.

“It has been only four months since the disaster that took their lives, and the world remembers the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ confession that it opened fire on defenseless humans,” says the petition that has garnered over 14,000 signatures since being launched on Sunday.

“The EU Member States should not agree to overflight over Iranian airspace until the Iranian Government demonstrates its commitment to cooperate with international bodies to conduct a credible investigation into the events leading to the destruction of PS752, including the identity of the perpetrators.”

‘This is for justice’

Hamed Esmaeilion lost his wife, Parisa Eghbalian, and their nine-year-old daughter Reera in the downing of Flight 752. (Madeline McNair/CBC)

Hamed Esmaeilion, the interim spokesperson for the association representing the families of the Canadians who died on the flight from Tehran to Kyiv, said it was important to make sure that Iranian authorities are held accountable for shooting down the aircraft.

Esmaeilion said the victims’ families are seeking two main goals with the petition.

“First of all, this is for justice. When justice has not prevailed and the investigation has not even started and Iran is not cooperating and the black boxes are still in Iran, why do they start talking?” Esmaeilion, who lost his wife, Parisa Eghbalian, and their nine-year-old daughter, Reera, in the crash, told Radio Canada International.

“And the second reason is we want to prevent any other crime like this. Who can guarantee that it’s not going to happen again? When they shoot down a plane and they don’t answer to anybody, they can do it again.”

Officials with Lufthansa said the petition was news to them.

“We currently are operating according to international security regulations regarding Iran and we definitely are aware of the hesitation that many people linked to this tragedy have regarding flying in that region,” Tal Muscal, Lufthansa’s spokesperson in the Americas, told Radio Canada International.

“Definitely, the number one priority remains the safety of our passengers and our crews and our aircraft.”

‘He should be in prison’

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the aerospace division of the Revolutionary Guards, stands before a launch of the first military satellite named Noor into orbit by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corpse, in Semnan, Iran Apr. 22, 2020. (WANA/Sepah News via REUTERS)

Esmaeilion said it also appears the state-controlled Iranian media has begun a PR campaign to rehabilitate the image of the commander of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Aerospace Force Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who has admitted responsibility for the downing of Flight 752.

In a recent 37-minute interview on the main state-controlled TV channel, Hajizadeh managed to talk about the events of Jan. 8 without once being asked about or mentioning the downing of Flight 752, Esmaeilion said.

The state-controlled Iranian media wants to portray Hajizadeh as a national hero despite the fact that his hands are stained with blood, he added.

“He should be in prison but instead he comes on the national TV and laughs at us,” Esmaeilion said.

Syrine Khoury, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, said Canada continues to advocate for “full accountability, transparency, justice, compensation, and a full, independent and transparent investigation, to help families seek closure as they continue to grieve.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at the Munich Security Conference in February that Canada is developing a Safer Skies Strategy, she said.

The goal of this strategy is to establish a common set of practices to better protect passengers from the risk of flying in or near foreign conflict zones and to prevent tragedies like the downing of Flight 752, from ever happening again, Khoury said.

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