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Iranian Social Media Urges Citizens to Protest Over Country's Role in Downing Ukraine Jet

Iranian people gather to show their sympathy to the victims of the crash of the Boeing 737-800 plane, flight PS 752, in Tehran, Iran. (Reuters)

Iranian people gather to show their sympathy to the victims of the crash of the Boeing 737-800 plane, flight PS 752, in Tehran, Iran. (Reuters)

Protesters, with students at the forefront, have staged daily rallies in Tehran and other cities after the authorities admitted their role in bringing down a Ukrainian plane last week, killing all 176 aboard, after days of denials.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: January 15, 2020, 1:41 PM IST
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Dubai: Iranian social media posts urged citizens to take to the streets for a fifth day on Wednesday, after public anger erupted following the belated admission by the authorities that they had shot down a passenger plane in error last week.

Protesters, with students at the forefront, have staged daily rallies in Tehran and other cities since Saturday, when the authorities admitted their role in bringing down a Ukrainian plane last week, killing all 176 aboard, after days of denials.

The plane was downed by air defences on January 8 when the armed forces were on high alert for US reprisals following tit-for-tat military strikes, the latest escalation in a crisis has rumbled on for years over Iran's nuclear programme.

Britain, France and Germany formally accused Iran on Tuesday of violating the terms of its 2015 agreement to curb its nuclear programme, a move that could lead to reimposing UN sanctions. Iran's president called the plane disaster an "unforgivable error", the military has issued profuse apologies and the judiciary said it had arrested some of those accused of having a role in the crash, in the effort to quell public outrage.

Some protests have been met with a violent crackdown. Videos on social media have showed people being beaten by riot police and shocked with electric batons. They also recorded gunfire and blood on the ground. Most protests flared at night. "We're coming to the streets," one posting circulating on social media said on Wednesday, urging people to join nationwide demonstrations against a "thieving and corrupt government".

Wednesday marks a week since the crash, coinciding with a Muslim Shi'ite tradition of mourning the dead after seven days. Tuesday's protests appeared smaller, with postings showing peaceful demonstrations, mainly on university campuses.

Thousands of protesters have been shown in videos gathering in the past four days in cities across Iran. Many have been outside universities, while Tehran's central Azadi Square has been a focus. But the full scale of protests and unrest is difficult to determine due restrictions on independent reporting. State-affiliated media have reported protests taking place, but have given limited details.

Police had denied shooting at protesters and say officers were told to show restraint. The judiciary said it had arrested 30 people but would show tolerance to "legal protests".

Iranians were outraged the military took days to admit it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight 752, carrying mainly Iranians or dual national. They asked why the plane had been allowed to take off at a time of high tension. Iran had launched missile strikes against U.S. targets in Iraq hours earlier in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian commander in Iraq on January 3.
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