KYIV/TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian relatives of those killed when a Ukrainian airliner was shot down by Iranian Revolutionary Guards one year ago on Friday held a vigil in Toronto and pledged to “protest and persevere” in their quest to know what happened that day.
The families of the 176 victims – 138 of whom had ties to Canada – were still grieving when the country went into lockdown for COVID-19 in mid-March. The vigil was held virtually and in person outdoors, with attendees holding photos of those killed.
“All of us are the remains of broken families who stand together in mourning, leaning on the shoulders of one another,” Amirali Alavi, whose mother died in the crash, said in a pre-recorded message.
“After a long and difficult year we continue to protest and persevere,” Alavi said.
In Tehran, military prosecutor Gholam Abbas Torki told state television on Friday that 10 officers had been subject to disciplinary action including dismissals or demotions, and that they would soon go on trial. He did not give a timeframe.
The Revolutionary Guards have said they shot down the Ukraine International Airlines plane in error shortly after takeoff, mistaking it for a missile at a time when tensions with Washington were high over the U.S. assassination five days earlier of Guards General Qassem Soleimani.
Ukraine, Canada, Sweden, Britain and Afghanistan – representing the home countries of most of the passengers who did not live in Iran – issued a joint statement on Friday calling for “a complete and thorough explanation … including concrete measures to ensure that it will never happen again.”
“Canada will not stand for anything less than a comprehensive and honest explanation from the Iranian government of what exactly happened,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a pre-recorded message played at the vigil.
Earlier, he pledged to create a path to permanent residency in Canada for some family members of the victims.
Last week Iran said it had allocated $150,000 for the families of each victims.
On Friday, Ukraine urged Iran to pay full compensation to the families of the victims, without naming an amount. It has previously demanded the compensation amount be negotiated.
A Canadian adviser to relatives said on Thursday it was premature to discuss figures.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto and Ilya Zhegulev in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by William Maclean, Kevin Liffey and Sonya Hepinstall)