Iran announced on Tuesday the arrest of several people in connection with the shooting down of a Ukrainian civilian plane with 176 people on board last Wednesday. The Iranian judicial spokesman has not specified the number or identity of the detainees, although he has reported the arrest of 30 participants in the protests for what many Iranians have perceived as an attempt to cover up the Iranian responsibility in the incident. President Hasan Rohani, for his part, has called for the formation of a special court to investigate him. The open crisis constitutes one of the greatest challenges facing the Islamic regime in its four decades of existence.
“The judiciary must form a special court with a high-ranking judge and dozens of experts. This is not an ordinary case; the whole world will be watching him ”, Rohani defended during a televised intervention. The president, who has described what happened as “a painful and unforgivable mistake”, has promised that his government will follow the matter with all its means. It is not clear what maneuverability he has in front of a system of which he is a part.
According to judicial spokesman Gholamhosein Esmaili, “an extensive investigation is already underway and some individuals have been detained.” In the absence of an independent press, the Iranians have launched into social networks to question the sincerity of this effort. They compare it with the process launched after the 1999 student protests: Despite the death of several university students due to the action of the basiyís (Islamic volunteers), the only one convicted was a lieutenant for stealing an electric razor.
“They are going to arrest the one who touched the button,” concurs a foreign observer in Tehran who sees in the advertisement “an attempt to cut the crisis. For three days, the Iranian authorities rejected all indications that the plane had been hit by a rocket, refused to hand over the black boxes of the aircraft, and even went so far as to threaten journalists to fuel this thesis. That the Revolutionary Guard, the ideological army and main pillar of the regime, finally recognized its mistake on Saturday has not avoided popular outrage.
For the fourth consecutive day, the demonstrations at the universities have continued. The center of Tehran is being taken over by the police, although there are currently no confirmation of serious incidents. At least three well-known state television presenters have resigned after what the Association of Journalists of Iran has called a “funeral for public confidence.” Several artists have also announced that they will not participate in the annual Al Fajr film festival early next month.
Significantly, Esmaili did specify the detainees, 30, for participating in these “illegal gatherings” (only those organized by the regime are legal). Even if the plane’s shootdown was a mistake, protesters, mostly university students, wonder how authorities may not have suspended civil air traffic. After firing a score of missiles at US positions. USA in Iraq in revenge for the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, the least that could be expected was an answer.
Rohani himself seems aware of the low credibility of the system. “The responsibility falls on more than one person (…) there are also others who must be punished,” he said without elaborating. In his opinion, the government admitting that the Iranian forces had shot down the plane “is a good first step.”
Parallel to the president’s efforts to save the forms, the regime is moving its chips to protect the Revolutionary Guard. “I’m afraid they are hatching a new version of the takedown,” an Iranian analyst confides. On the one hand, the newspaper Hamshahri The arrest of the person who recorded the video showing the moment of the missile impact with the plane has been confirmed and was broadcast by most of the international media. On the other hand, the Foreign Press Office of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation has distributed among the international media correspondents a report prepared by the University of Tehran according to which “the United States hacked the anti-missile system”, attributes the shooting down of the plane to ” it compiled to reduce the media impact of the Iranian response to the assassination of General Soleimani ”and dismisses human error.
While the basiyís Today they have concentrated in various universities to “commemorate the victims”, in an attempt to appropriate student protests that since last Saturday denounced the lack of transparency of the authorities.