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Iran should compensate victims' families over 2020 plane downing, says Canadian court

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
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All 176 passengers and crew were killed when the plane was shot down in January 2020.
All 176 passengers and crew were killed when the plane was shot down in January 2020.   -   Copyright  Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

A court in Canada has ruled that Iran should compensate the victims who died after a Ukrainian flight was shot down in 2020.

The court awarded 107 million Canadian dollars (€74.5 million) in damages to the families of six of the victims.

All 176 passengers and crew died when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 went down near Tehran on 8 January 2020.

The Boeing aircraft was "mistakenly" hit by two surface-to-air missiles, Iran's military admitted three days later.

At least 85 of the victims were Canadian citizens or residents, prompting some families of the victims to sue Iran in a Canadian civil court.

Last year, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the plane's downing constituted an “act of terrorism” and allowed families to seek compensation from the Iranian state. Foreign nations are ordinarily immune from legal suits in Canadian courts.

In a decision last month, Justice Edward Belobaba awarded a total of 107 million Canadian dollars in punitive damages to the six families. It remains unclear how the families would actually receive financial compensation from Iran.

“This court well understands that damage awards are a poor substitute for the lives that were lost,” Belobaba said in the ruling made public on Monday.

"I am confident that some level of enforcement may well be possible and some level of deterrence may well be established," Belobaba added.

The court's decision -- hailed as "unprecedented" by lawyers -- carries symbolic significance for families of the victims. For nearly two years, Iran has been criticised for a lack of transparency and accountability in the investigation of its own military.

The plane was shot down just hours after Iran had fired ballistic missiles at American bases in Iraq following a US drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

After days of denial, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard publicly apologised for the downing and blamed the incident on an air defence operator who mistook the Ukrainian flight for an American cruise missile.

But Tehran has said the Ontario court had "no basis" to rule that the incident was an act of terrorism.

In December 2020, Iran said it was prepared to pay "150,000 dollars or the equivalent in euros" to each of the families of the flight victims.