Belongings of victims of downed Ukrainian airliner were ‘looted’, say relatives

A man sits by a memorial for the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crash in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP)

The victims of the Ukrainian civilian airliner downed by Iranian missiles in January had their belongings ransacked at the crash site, family members of the victims revealed at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 on January 8, killing all 176 onboard.

Iran admitted to downing the plane after days of denying responsibility and insisting the plane crashed due to a “technical failure,” but it is yet to hand over the black boxes for analysis.

“Our families’ belongings were looted, and what was not looted was confiscated by Iranian officials. No one knows where my wife’s wedding ring and my daughter's pink doll is; they have not been returned,” Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa Eghbalian and nine-year-old daughter Reera were killed in the crash, said.

Esmaeilion said his daughter’s wristband, coat, carry on, and both her Canadian and Iranian passports are missing.

Possessions belonging to the victims, such as laptops, cell phones, wedding rings, passports, and wallets with cash in them were “looted,” he said.

“We have photos of Iranian officials just searching the bags and the luggage to find something. We do not know what they were doing,” said Esmaeilion.

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. (File photo: Reuters)

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. (File photo: Reuters)

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Javad Soleimani, whose wife Elnaz Nabiyi was killed in the crash, cast doubt on Iran’s official version of events, raising the possibility that the downing of the plane may have been intentional.

How could a cruise missile, which is what the IRGC claims to mistook the Ukrainian airliner for, reach Tehran without being detected by the country’s air defense systems, Soleimani questioned.

“We cannot discount the possibility of the attack being intentional,” Esmaeilion said.

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Soleimani said he has “no hope” for any cooperation from the Iranian side.

Officials from Iran’s civil aviation organization have contacted families of victims in Canada asking them to stop criticizing the regime on social media, he said.

The Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) – “Canada’s NIAC?”

Asked if he had approached the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) – a Toronto-based NGO claiming to “represent the interests of Iranian Canadians” – for support, Esmaeilion said: “ICC has even failed to mention the IRGC as the perpetrators of this crime. They have taken no steps to help us in our fight for justice. I think they have other priorities, probably.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy lays flowers to commemorate victims of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane crash, at a memorial in Boryspil International airport outside Kiev, Ukraine, on January 9, 2020. (Reuters)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy lays flowers to commemorate victims of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane crash, at a memorial in Boryspil International airport outside Kiev, Ukraine, on January 9, 2020. (Reuters)

Iranian activists and opposition accuse ICC of being the Canadian version of the controversial Washington-based NGO National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

NIAC has been repeatedly accused of lobbying on behalf of the Iranian regime, working against the interests of the Iranian diaspora in the US whom it claims to represent, and coordinating with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Like NIAC, ICC devotes much of its efforts to calling for sanctions relief on Iran.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 17 June 2020 KSA 00:41 - GMT 21:41
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