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Canada court awards compensation for families over jet downed by Iran

By AFP - Jan 04,2022 - Last updated at Jan 04,2022

MONTREAL — A Canadian court has awarded more than $80 million in compensation to the families of six people who died when Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner almost two years ago, according to a decision made public on Monday.

Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 was shot down shortly after take-off from Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 people aboard — including 85 Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Three days later, the Iranian armed forces admitted to downing the Kyiv-bound plane “by mistake”.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Edward Belobaba had previously ruled that the strike on the civilian aircraft “constituted terrorist activity”, paving the way for bereaved families to seek compensation.

In the decision publicly shared on Monday, he awarded the plaintiffs $107 million Canadian dollars ($83 million), plus interest.

It was unclear how the money would be collected from Iran, but Belobaba said he was “satisfied that some level of enforcement may well be possible and some level of deterrence may well be achieved”.

“[The plaintiffs’ counsel said] viable Iranian-owned assets and investments remain accessible not only in Canada but worldwide,” the judge wrote in his decision.

Contacted by AFP on Monday evening, the plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Arnold did not immediately respond.

In a statement posted online on Monday, the lawyers argued for Canada’s jurisdiction over the compensation.

“In 2012, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and the State Immunity Act were amended to permit such claims to be brought against foreign states designated as state sponsors of terrorism,” lawyers Mark Arnold and Jonah Arnold said.

“Canada designated the Islamic Republic of Iran as such a state.”

In May, the same judge concluded that Iran had committed a “terrorist” act by shooting down the Ukrainian aircraft.

Tehran denounced that ruling, saying it had “no basis” and insisting that the Canadian court lacked the authority to render such a decision.

The plaintiffs had asked for $1.5 billion Canadian dollars in damages.

In a final report in March, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation said its air defence systems were on high alert for a US counter-attack after Tehran fired missiles at a military base in Iraq that was used by US forces.

The Islamic republic had just attacked a US base in Iraq in response to the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, and was expecting a response from Washington.

Ukraine denounced the report as a “cynical attempt to hide the real causes” of the tragedy, while Ottawa said the report was “incomplete” and lacked “hard evidence”.

A group of countries led by Canada said in June that they had filed an action against Iran to seek compensation for the families of the victims.

In December 2020, Iran offered to pay “$150,000 or the equivalent in euros” to each of the victims’ families.

That announcement was strongly criticised by Ukrainian and Canadian officials, who said that compensation should not be settled through unilateral declarations.

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