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Families of Victims Of Ukrainian Plane Shot Down By Iran Form Association

Hamed Esmaeilion, an Iranian-Canadian dentist, lost his wife and daughter in the plane crash. FILE PHOTO

The relatives of the 176 victims of the Ukrainian airliner shot down by Iran's Revolutionary Guard over Tehran on January 8 have set up an association to seek justice for the death of their loved ones.

In a video circulated on social media, Hamed Esmaeilion, a Canadian-Iranian dentist from Toronto, says members of the board of directors of the association will soon be elected and he has been appointed as the spokesperson.

"The association wants to bring the perpetrators of the crime, including those who ordered it, to justice," Esmaeilion who lost his wife and daughter in the deadly crash says.

The newly founded association has been described as an independent, non-political civil entity.

The Islamic Republic has so far rejected demands by the Ukrainian and Canadian governments to hand over the flight recorders for expert analysis. Critics believe Iran's conduct is a delaying tactic not to share information.

The authorities in the clergy-dominated Iran have recently argued that fighting the deadly novel coronavirus in the country has disrupted the investigation into the Ukrainian passenger plane tragedy.

"Despite the daunting hurdles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Iran must live up to its pledge to co-operate with the investigation into its downing of a commercial airliner in January," the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said on March 26.

Canada, Ukraine, Germany, Britain, and Afghanistan have formed a group to pursue a thorough investigation of the incident.

Ukraine's deputy Foreign Minister, Yehor Bozhok, told Radio Farda on March 31 that there has been no positive development concerning the case. "Tehran should immediately hand over the black boxes to Kiev or any other country Ukraine chooses,".

Iran's representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, Farhad Parvaresh, promised March 11 to transfer the black boxes to Ukraine within two weeks, but as of April 2 that has yet to occur.

Meanwhile, Canadian lawyers are seeking a class-action status lawsuit on behalf of victims' families, looking for at least C$1.5 billion ($1.1 billion) in compensation.

The lawsuit names the Islamic Republic, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Revolutionary Guard, and others as defendants.