Middle East

Pressure mounts on Iran after accidental shooting down of Ukrainian passenger jet

Iranian students hold pictures of victims during a memorial for the passengers of the Ukraine plane crash, in University of Tehran. Source: AFP

Iran has arrested at least 30 people in connection with the downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet.

Iran is facing mounting international and internal pressure over the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane which killed 176 people - as new evidence suggests the aircraft was hit by more than one missile.

Tehran announced it has made several arrests over the tragedy - days after admitting the plane was struck in error. 

In the Iranian capital of Tehran, two opposing protests were held with one common sentiment - anger. 

The first - directed at the Iranian regime, over what protesters are calling a government cover-up. 

Pro-Iranian government protesters set fire to the US and British flags and a life size cut out of British ambassador to Tehran, Rob Macaire.
Pro-Iranian government protesters set fire to the US and British flags and a life size cut out of British ambassador to Tehran, Rob Macaire.
AP

The second rally - rejecting such suggestions, and accusing foreign powers of stirring unrest. 

Anti-government defiance re-ignited in Iran after the Revolutionary Guard admitted it downed flight PS572. 

Security forces have arrested 30 protesters as part of a crackdown. 

Tehran - which initially said it was scientifically impossible that a missile could have downed the plane - is now facing evidence it fired two. 

New footage released by the New York Times shows what appears to be a missile, striking the aircraft and disabling its transponder. 

Mourners attend a memorial in North Vancouver, British Columbia, to remember Canadian victims of the tragedy.
Mourners attend a memorial in North Vancouver, British Columbia, to remember Canadian victims of the tragedy.
The Canadian Press

That's followed 30 seconds later by a second missile. 

Having promised those at fault would be punished, Iran has confirmed arrests. 

But judiciary spokesperson Gholhossein Emaili gave no details, only saying “some people have been arrested”. 

A person Tehran claims filmed the plane being shot down has also been arrested and is expected to face charges over national security. 

But the British journalist who initially posted the video said his source is safe, and authorities arrested the wrong person.

Iran's critics - including Canada, which lost 57 citizens in the crash - want the regime to take full responsibility. 

President Hassan Rouhani - who's described the crash as an unforgivable mistake - has distanced himself from any culpability. 

He is calling for a special court to oversee the probe. 

“It is not possible for just one person to be the culprit in this incident. It is not possible for only the person who pushed the button to be at fault. There are others too and I would like this case to be explained to the people with honesty,” he said. 

Iran says it struck the aircraft in error as it anticipated an American attack after it retaliated on US targets over the death of General Qasim Soleimani. 

Qassem Soleimani (centre) attends a meeting in Tehran, Iran on 18 September 2016.
Qassem Soleimani attends a meeting in Tehran, Iran in 2016.
AAP

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump again justified, this time in undiplomatic terms, why he ordered the general's assassination. 

"He was the king of the roadside bombs,” he said. 

“Great percentages of people don't have legs right now or arms, because of this son of a bitch." 

As US democrats move in the Senate to block the President taking further action against Iran, Europe made moves of its own. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and  US President Donald J. Trump (R).
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and US President Donald J. Trump (R).
EPA

Britain, France and Germany, have invoked a dispute mechanism against Iran via the European Union. 

EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said Iran has been accused of repeated violations of the 2015 nuclear deal. 

"The aim of the Dispute Resolution Mechanism is not to re-impose sanctions,” he told reporters.

“The aim of this mechanism is to resolve issues related to the implementation of the agreement within the framework of the Joint Commission."

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