Air defence commander sentenced for shooting down Ukrainian airliner

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An Iranian court has sentenced an air defence commander allegedly responsible for the deadly downing of a passenger plane amid Iran-US tensions three years ago, it has been reported.

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight in January 2020.

The missile strike killed all 176 people on board and came as Tehran and Washington teetered on the brink of war.

The commander whom officials said ordered the strike was sentenced to 13 years in prison, the official judiciary news outlet, Mizan, said on Sunday.

Mizan said the commander did not follow protocols in the moments leading up to the shooting down of the plane. The commander was also ordered to pay fines to families of victims, the report added.

Mizan said the court also sentenced two personnel allegedly involved in running the surface-to-air missile system Tor M-1 to one year in prison each.

After a lengthy series of hearings, the court sentenced at least seven other personnel and air defence officers to up to three years in prison.

According to Mizan, the verdicts can be appealed within 20 days.

The report did not identify any of the defendants by name or give further details.

The judiciary news agency also said Iran’s government plans to pay 150,000 US dollars for each victim to their families.

It did not elaborate on how this money will be delivered to the families.

The hearing sessions have faced international criticism since starting in 2021. At that time, an association of the victims’ families also criticised the hearing and cast doubts on the court’s legitimacy.

The group also alleged that none of the defendants were present at hearings.

Just hours before the shooting down in January 2020, Iran had fired ballistic missiles at American bases in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

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