Under pressure, Iran makes first arrests over airliner downing
TEHRAN, Jan 14: Iran announced on Tuesday its first arrests over the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner last week, as it struggles to contain the fallout from the disaster that sparked three days of protests.
The Ukraine International Airlines plane was brought down by a missile shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.
Iran has come under mounting international pressure to ensure its investigation into the tragedy is full and transparent.
The authorities' handling of the air disaster has also angered some Iranians.
Videos posted online Monday purported to show hundreds of protesters taking to the streets for a third consecutive night, apparently shouting slogans against the Islamic republic.
Protesters chanted "Death to dictator" on Sunday, Fars news agency reported, a rare move for a country where media usually refer to demonstrators as "rioters" and refrain from publishing such slogans.
The protests have been much smaller than nationwide demonstrations against fuel price hikes that turned deadly in November.
Tehran for days denied Western claims based on US intelligence that the Boeing 737 had been downed by a missile.
It came clean on Saturday when Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh acknowledged a missile operator had mistaken the plane for a cruise missile and opened fire independently.
At a televised news conference, the judiciary announced the first arrests had been made over the calamitous blunder, without specifying how many.
"Extensive investigations have been carried out and some people have been arrested," said spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili. -AFP