Iran’s government yesterday denied a cover-up after it took days for the armed forces to admit a Ukrainian airliner was shot down by mistake last week.
“In these sorrowful days, many criticisms were directed at relevant officials and authorities ... some officials were even accused of lying and a cover-up but, in all honesty, that was not the case,” spokesman Ali Rabiei said in remarks aired on state television.
He also dismissed day tweets by US President Donald Trump voicing support for Iranians, saying the Iranians would remember Trump killed a top general and was the reason many were facing economic challenges, state media said.
Trump, who told Iran’s authorities in tweets in Farsi and English not to kill protesters and praised the “great Iranian people,” was shedding “crocodile tears” when voicing concern for Iranians, Rabiei said.
Meanwhile, protesters yesterday gathered for a third day in central Tehran amid public anger over the military’s admission that it had shot down the airliner, videos from inside Iran posted on social media showed.
However, it was not immediately possible to authenticate the videos, Reuters reported.
“They killed our elites and replaced them with clerics,” scores of protesters chanted at a Tehran university in one video, while another showed dozens of police in riot gear in elsewhere in Tehran.
In other developments, Tehran’s police chief, General Hossein Rahimi, has denied his officers opened fire on Saturday or Sunday to disperse demonstrators protesting against the government’s initial denial that it shot down the jetliner.
Videos sent to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran and later verified by The Associated Press show a crowd of demonstrators fleeing as a tear gas canister landed among them.
People cough and sputter while trying to escape the fumes, with one woman calling out in Farsi: “They fired tear gas at people! Azadi Square. Death to the dictator.”
Another video shows a woman being carried away in the aftermath as a blood trail can be seen on the ground. Those around her cry out that she has been shot by live ammunition in the leg.
“Oh my God, she’s bleeding nonstop!” one person shouts.
Another shouts: “Bandage it!”
Photographs and video after the incident show pools of blood on the sidewalk.
“Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance,” Iranian media quoted Rahimi as saying. “Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been agenda of the police forces of the capital.”
However, uniformed police officers were just one arm of Iran’s security forces who were out in force for the demonstrations.
Black-clad riot police on Sunday were in Vali-e Asr Square, at Tehran University and other landmarks, while Revolutionary Guard members patrolled on motorbikes and plainclothes security men were also out in force.
People looked down as they walked briskly past police, apparently trying not to draw attention to themselves.
There has also been a cultural outpouring of grief and anger from Iran’s creative community over the downing of the airplane that killed 176 people.
Some Iranian artists, including famed director Masoud Kimiai, withdrew from an upcoming international film festival, while two state television hosts resigned in protest over the false reporting about the cause of the plane crash.
Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran’s most-famous actresses, posted a picture of a black square on Instagram with the caption: “We are not citizens. We are hostages. Millions of hostages.”
Saeed Maroof, the captain of Iran’s national volleyball team, also wrote on Instagram: “I wish I could be hopeful that this was the last scene of the show of deceit and lack of wisdom of these incompetents but I still know it is not.”
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