Death of Iran’s president deprives families of flight PS752 of chance for justice: group

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

Published Tuesday, May 21, 2024 3:33 PM EDT

Last updated Tuesday, May 21, 2024 5:40 pmEDT

HALIFAX – Members of a Canadian group representing the families of people killed when the Iranian military shot down a commercial airliner in 2020 say the death of Iran’s president means he will never face justice for his alleged role in the death of your loved ones.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes for stability in the region and democracy for Iranians, without saying whether Ottawa has reached out to Iran.

President Ebrahim Raisi and Iran’s foreign minister were found dead on Monday, hours after their helicopter crashed in fog. Iran has not offered any cause for the crash or suggested that sabotage occurred that brought down the helicopter, which came down in mountainous terrain in the country’s northwest.

Kouroush Doustshenas, whose fiancee was among the 176 people who died when Flight PS752 was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020, said in an interview Monday that Raisi played a role in keeping the skies open to civil aviation as tensions flared in the region just before the The plane was hit by missiles.

Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people who died on the Ukraine International Airlines flight that was shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport.

Doustshenas said Raisi, known to many as the “butcher of Tehran,” was also linked to the 1998 mass killings of peaceful protesters, the 2019 Bloody November massacres and a cruel crackdown on the Women, Life, Freedom movement that began in September 2022. .

“In a few days he will be replaced by another hardliner. And the same goes for the Iranian Foreign Minister, very soon he will be replaced by another person who has the same record as him of four decades of serving the same system.” Doustshenas said in an interview from Winnipeg.

“So I didn’t feel any joy at his death, nor any anger,” because the deaths probably won’t have any impact on the Iranian regime, Doustshenas said.

Canada’s main goal is to ensure democracy for those living under violent oppression in Iran and less conflict in the region, Trudeau said at an unrelated news conference in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

“Obviously, what we all want to see is regional stability at this particular time,” he said.

“There are significant tensions in the Middle East, so any uncertainty needs to be eased.”

Iranian advocates testified Tuesday before the House human rights subcommittee and urged Canada to do more to punish Iran’s regime.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam said Canada should lead other rich countries in developing a strategic plan to weaken the regime and end “gender apartheid” in the country, similar to Ottawa’s role in helping end apartheid in South Africa.

He also warned that Iran poses a threat to those living in the diaspora in Canada.

“We can’t risk not having a strong policy toward Iran; we’re not safe,” he testified.

Raisi, 63, had been discussed as a possible successor to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85. His death now puts the succession in doubt, particularly because there is no cleric heir apparent to the presidency before elections scheduled for June 28.

In a statement on Monday, the Association of Victims of Flight PS752 said: “We vehemently sought to bring (Raisi) to justice for his crimes in a fair trial so that he could face the consequences of his heinous actions. We feel that we have been robbed opportunity, but we do not regret his death.

Across Iran, the rural population tends to more closely embrace the Shiite faith and government. However, Tehran has long had a very different view of Raisi and the policies of his government, as mass protests have rocked the capital for years.

The most recent involved the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a woman detained for allegedly wearing a headscarf or hijab. The security crackdown that lasted months after the protests killed more than 500 people and detained more than 22,000. In March, a United Nations investigative panel found that Iran was responsible for the “physical violence” that led to Amini’s death.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

— With files from Dylan Robertson in Ottawa and The Associated Press