Canadian court awards $83m to families of airliner victims downed by Iran

A Ukraine International Airlines plane., Editorial credit: Oleksandr Naumenko

A court in Ontario, Canada, has awarded $83.94 million, plus interest, to the families of six people who died when Iran shot down a Ukraine International Airlines plane near Tehran two years ago.

Iran shot down the airliner in January 2020 after having mistaken it for a hostile missile amid huge tensions with the United States. All 176 people onboard were killed, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

The six family members lost spouses, siblings, children, nieces and nephews aboard Flight 752, their lawyer, Mark Arnold, said in a statement on Monday.

The lawyer said his team will look to seize Iranian assets in Canada and abroad. He said Iran has oil tankers in other countries and his team will be looking to seize whatever it can to pay what the families are owed.

A special Canadian forensic team had produced a report in mid-2021 that accused Iran of incompetence and recklessness over the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane. Iran criticized the report as being “highly politicised.”

The report found that while the shooting down of Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 had not been premeditated, it did not absolve Iranian officials of responsibility for the incident.

Iran admitted it shot down the airliner shortly after takeoff and blamed a “disastrous mistake” by forces on high alert.

A few hours earlier Iran had fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.

The Iranian government initially denied responsibility for the airplane’s destruction, but an investigation by Western intelligence agencies and the general public revealed that the aircraft was shot down by two surface-to-air missiles.

On January 11, the Iranian government admitted that the military had indeed shot down the airliner, having mistaken it for a cruise missile.

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