Iranian police deny firing guns at demonstrators


Tehran police chief, Brig-Gen Hossein Rahimi denied reports that officers fired guns at people demonstrating against the downing of a Ukrainian airliner. Officers had been given orders to “show restraint,” he said.

“The police treated the people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” he said, before warning that “those who intend to manipulate the situation” would face consequences.

Videos posted online on Sunday, January 12, recorded what appeared to be gunfire and showed an injured woman being carried away.

Protests erupted on Saturday, after Iran admitted firing missiles by mistake at the Ukraine International Airlines jet that crashed near Tehran.

All 176 people on board flight PS752, mostly Iranians and Canadians, were killed.

For the first three days after the crash, Iran denied that its armed forces had shot down the plane and suggested there had been a technical failure.

The admission of responsibility, which came after video emerged of a missile appearing to hit the plane, provoked widespread anger in Iran against the establishment.

Days earlier, Iranians had been united in grief over the killing of Gen Qasem Soleimani, their country’s second most powerful man, in a US drone strike in Iraq.

The latest reports of a possible crackdown echo the protests in November of last year over rising fuel prices where human rights groups say hundreds of people were killed.

The Iranian government meanwhile denied there had been a cover-up in the accidental shooting of the Ukrainian flight PS752.

“On these sad days, numerous criticisms were raised against the country’s officials; some of us have been accused of lying and secrecy. But honestly it was not like that,” spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters on Monday.

“The reality is that we did not lie,” he added, blaming “a lack of valid information” and also “the US’s psychological warfare” for his own and other officials’ denials that the plane was shot down.

Mr Rabiei insisted that senior officials, including President Rouhani, did not know that missiles had been launched at the airliner until Friday evening.

However, the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Force Commander, Brig-Gen Amir Ali Hajizadeh, had said when admitting its role in the “unintentional” strike, that he had informed officials about it on Wednesday.

Gen Hajizadeh said on Saturday that Iran’s air defences had been on the highest state of alert because the Revolutionary Guards had just fired ballistic missiles at US bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani.

The operator of a missile defence system near Tehran’s airport mistook flight PS752 for a US missile and due to problems with a communication system was unable to contact the command centre, according to the general.

“He had 10 seconds to decide,” he added. “He could have decided to strike or not to strike, and under such circumstances he took the wrong decision.” (Source: BBC)