Canada and four other countries are still trying to pressure Iran to release the flight recorders from a Ukrainian passenger plane shot down in January over Tehran, Transport Minister Marc Garneau says.
As Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 took off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini international airport on January 8, heading for Kyiv, two Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' missiles were fired at the plane which brought it down near the capital city, killing all aboard.
Victims of the crash included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons.
It took Iran's authorities three days to admit that the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps' (IRGC) missiles hit the passenger plane. Most of the passengers were Canadian-Iranians.
"The black boxes are still in Iran and we will continue to put pressure on the Islamic Republic," Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said on Sunday, May 31.
Iran initially insisted that Boeing, an American aircraft manufacturer, or another country provide technical equipment to Iran to decode the black box itself.
Finally, after increasing international pressure, Iran announced on March 11 that it was ready to hand over the black box to Ukraine or a third country within the next two weeks. The plane's black box has not been delivered since.
Meanwhile, the state-run Iran Students News Agency, ISNA, reported on Sunday that in a "new decision" Iran will "probably" send the black boxes of the Ukrainian plane to France.
The report claims that since Kyiv has not yet responded to Tehran's latest offer, Iranian officials have decided to send the black boxes of the plane to another country, possibly France. What offer is referred to remains unclear, but Ukraine is demanding compensation and Iran is not willing to meet Kyiv’s expectations
Nevertheless, from the early days after the tragedy, Ukraine has repeatedly called on Iran to hand over the flight recorders.
Earlier, on March 11, Canadian Transport Minister, Garneau, was at the Montreal meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) when Iran's representative promised his government would surrender the so-called black boxes to Ukrainian authorities by March 25.
"The boxes are still in Iran and we continue to exert pressure," Garneau said at a government briefing on a video link.
"They said it would be within two weeks. That coincided with the serious onset of COVID-19 in Iran. And they explained that they were not in a position to address that matter at that time."
The contents of flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder are usually critical to crash investigations. Iran doesn't have the technical capabilities to read the black boxes. Based on international regulations, Iran is expected to ask other countries with the proper knowledge and equipment to help.
The tragedy occurred just after Iran launched missiles into Iraq at two American military bases in retaliation for the U.S. having killed the IRGC top General, Qassem Soleimani, days earlier. As Iranian troops were on the alert from a possible U.S. retaliatory strike, the civilian airport remained open and when the Ukrainian plane took off a missile operator fired thinking it was a hostile target.
Clearly Iran’s air defense command system did not work, which would make senior commanders responsible for the downing of a civilian plane.
Immediately after Iran admitted to shooting down the passenger plane, thousands of people held protest rallies across the country and many were arrested.
Tehran still insists that a "human error" is responsible for shooting down the doomed plane.
Nevertheless, Ukraine has repeatedly demanded punishment for "all" persons, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Republic Armed forces.
Canadian lawyers for the relatives of the victims of Flight 752 last February filed lawsuits in Canadian courts for $ 1.5 billion compensation (the US $ 1.1 billion).