TORONTO (AP) — Canada is forming its own forensic examination and assessment team to examine evidence and information after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down a Ukrainian jetliner in January, killing all 176 people on board.
The office of Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne told The Associated Press the team will collect, organize and analyze all available information, evidence and intelligence about the Jan. 8 crash near Tehran, and will advise the Canadian government on its credibility.
“This is yet another step to uncover the truth, hold the Iranian regime to account and seek justice for the families of the victims. We will spare no efforts on behalf of the families of the victims to obtain justice and closure,” Champagne said in a statement provided to the AP.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, more than 50 Canadians — including many Iranians with dual citizenship — and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The route was popular with those traveling onward to Canada.
Shahin Moghaddam, who lost his wife Shakiba Feghahati and his 10-year-old son Rosstin, said the Canadian probe is late, but he called it a good first step. He said the families have a lot to share.
“Iran won’t cooperate and won’t answer any of the questions. At a same time we have to use all the tools we have to pressure them to answer,” he said.
The shootdown happened the same night Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq, its response to the American drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. At the time, Iranian troops were bracing for a U.S. counterstrike and appear to have mistaken the plane for a missile.
Iran announced recently announced it retrieved some data, including a portion of cockpit conversations, from the Ukrainian jetliner. The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said in August that the passenger plane’s black boxes have only 19 seconds of conversation following the first explosion, though the second missile reached the plane 25 seconds later. The report quoting him did not elaborate.
The Canadian government previously dismissed Iran’s reports as limited and containing selected information, and said Tehran still has many questions to answer.
Iran initially denied responsibility for the crash before admitting — in the face of mounting evidence and international pressure — the Boeing 737-800 went down after being hit by two Iranian missiles.