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Canadian court awards $84 million ‘for lives lost to terrorism’ in 2020 Ukrainian plane downing in Iran

by Natalia Datskevych January 4, 2022 8:07 PM 2 min read
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An engine lies on the ground after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on Jan. 8, 2020, killing all 176 people on board.(mehrnews.com/Aref Fathi)

The Ontario Supreme Court on Dec. 31 awarded $84 million to the families of six people who were killed when the Iranian military downed a plane of Ukrainian International Airlines with two surface-to-air missiles in early 2020.

The verdict in a civil lawsuit, filed by family members of Canadian citizens who lost their loved ones against Iran and Iranian top officials, was announced on Jan. 3.

Two years ago, on Jan. 8, 2020, all 176 passengers of the Boeing 737 jet, including 55 Canadians, 30 permanent residents of Canada, and 11 Ukrainians, were killed when the plane was shot down shortly after taking off from Tehran International Airport.

According to Justice Edward Belobaba, the “rational damage award” of the case ranged between $7.8 million and $12.5 million for each plaintiff.  The judge chose the highest possible award.

“This may be the first time that a Canadian court has been asked to determine damages for lives lost to terrorism,” the verdict reads. “Compensatory and punitive damage awards set out herein are just and appropriate and accord with the applicable law.”

The judge also expects new civil cases on PS 752 flight from other 170 crew members and passengers' families.

But the Canadian case won’t do much good for the Ukrainian side, including the carrier and the families of 11 Ukrainians who were on board. The lawsuit and awards are processes that are internal to Canada, according to Gyunduz Mamedov, Ukraine's deputy prosecutor general in 2019-2021, who was in charge of the investigation on the Ukrainian side.

Still, this is one step forward on the path to get justice for the Ukrainian side.

“Diplomatic, legal, and investigative processes must continue. There must be more verdicts,” Mamedov told the Kyiv Independent.

The Iranian officials at first denied any connection to the crash.

Later Iran President Hassan Rouhani called it a “great tragedy and unforgivable mistake” due to human error: The Iranian air defense unit mistook the Kyiv-bound plane for a U.S. missile amid rising tensions between Iran and American military forces based in neighboring Iraq.

At the same time, Iranian authorities did not allow an independent investigation to take place at the crash site.

For the families of victims who won the lawsuit, the next step is for their lawyer, Mark Arnold, to seize Iranian assets in Canada and abroad, like oil tankers.

“We will be looking internationally to seize whatever we can seize,” said Arnold, Canada’s CBC reported.

“We can’t bring these families back, but this is part of their search for justice,” Arnold said earlier after the same court ruled in May that the plane crash in Iran was an “intentional act of terrorism.”

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