Loved ones of Flight 752 victims demand plan, timeline for holding Iran to account
The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims is looking for answers
The families of those killed on Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 are expressing frustration over a lack of progress in the investigation as they launch a new group to push for bringing those responsible to justice.
Fifty-five Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents of Canada were among the 176 people killed when Flight PS752 was shot down by two Iranian missiles shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Jan. 8.
Several victims' families are now taking aim at the federal government as they launch the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, saying they want to know what Ottawa is doing to pressure Iran to cooperate with investigators.
They say they plan to question Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne when they meet him next week about the government's plan to hold Iran to account.
"We need to know more," said Hamed Esmaeilion, a dentist in the Greater Toronto Area whose wife Parisa and nine-year-old daughter Reera were on the flight. He has become a spokesperson for the victims' families.
"When we see Minister Champagne next week, we want to hear from him — what is the roadmap? And what is the timeframe for this? Because we can't wait forever for negotiations to end."
Iran initially denied responsibility before admitting its role in the aircraft's destruction. It has since been accused of stonewalling international efforts to find out how and why the plane was shot down. Victims' families are accusing Tehran of trying to cover up the facts.
Esmaeilion and other members of the victims' association demanded Tuesday that Iran allow a team of international officials from countries whose citizens were on the flight — Ukraine, Sweden, England, Afghanistan and Iran — to investigate.
"Was it intentional or not? If it was a human error, just prove it," said Esmaeilion.
Watch | Hamed Esmaeilion speaks with Vassy Kapelos on Power & Politics
Five of the victims were from the Windsor-Essex region — four were graduate students at the University of Windsor and the fifth was a researcher at the school.
"It is important to know what was the cause and prevent it to happen," said Milad Kazemian, a graduate student at the University of Windsor's engineering program, who knew all five victims from Windsor-Essex but was closest to 28-year-old Pedram Jadidi.
"I'm aware that when an accident happens, it takes time to be investigated and a lot of evidence needs to be gathered ... But I think what worries the family is that they haven't received a proper answer."
One of the key focuses in recent months has been the fate of the airliner's flight recorders, which have been recovered by Iran. Canada and others have been calling for the "black boxes" to be turned over for analysis, but Tehran has so far refused.
Canada is now pushing Iran to hand the boxes over to France. The Iranians initially promised — and then failed — to send the recorders to Ukraine by mid-March.
Speaking to reporters outside his Ottawa home, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said families are still reeling from the loss of their loved ones. He said the matter of Flight PS752 was raised when he spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday.
"We're going to continue to put pressure on the Iranian regime alongside our international partners to get answers, to get justice, to get compensation for the families," Trudeau added. "This is something we have committed to do and we will continue to do."
The families' association is calling for the International Court of Justice to step in if Iran does not send the flight data recorders to France. Iran is blaming COVID-19 for its failure to deliver the recorders, Canadian government officials said last week.
"We need to know the names. We need to know the details. We need to find the truth and we deserve that," said Esmaeilion.
"They want to make us tired and fed up and frustrated and give up. But we don't. We won't."
with files from CBC News