Protesters have taken to the streets of Iran for a third day running, as outage over the authorities’ admission it accidentally shot down a Ukranian airliner, despite repeated denials that Iranian forces were responsible.
Demonstrations in the country began on Saturday following the Iranian military’s admission that it had mistakenly shot down the plane, killing all 176 people on board, at a time of confrontation between Tehran and Washington after general Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike.
Footage from inside Iran showed demonstrators and riot police back out on the streets on Monday, with Tehran’s police chief denying that shots had been fired at protestors by law enforcement in the Iranian capital.
Footage posted on social media on Sunday night appeared to show gunshots fired in the vicinity of protests and pools of blood, as well as wounded people being carried. Reuters was unable to authenticate the footage.
Some protestors in Azadi Square began by calling on officers to join them before turning their anger on authorities, chanting anti-government slogans including “down with the dictator” — a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to social media posts and Iranian media reports.
The semi-official ILNA news agency said police moved to disperse the protesters, who it said numbered as many as 3,000. Videos posted online, which could not be verified by Reuters, showed demonstrators running from police who used batons and teargas.
“At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint,” said Hossein Rahimi, head of the Tehran police, in a statement on Monday morning.
US President Donald Trump tweeted “don’t kill your protestors” late on Sunday.
Trump also said that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had “suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran ‘choked off’, will force them to negotiate.”
An Iranian government spokesperson dismissed Trump’s comments, saying Iranians were suffering due to Trump’s actions and would remember he had ordered the killing of military leader Qassem Soleiman, whose death on 3 January promoted huge mourning ceremonies across the country.
Iran carried out missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing US-led coalition troops in retaliation last week.
Shortly afterwards, a Ukraine International Airlines passenger jet was downed after taking off from Tehran bound for Kiev. Many of the 176 on board were Iranians with dual citizenship, while 57 Canadians died.
Public anger against Iranian authorities mounted last week as Iran repeatedly denied it was responsible for the downing of the plane, erupted into protests on Saturday after the Iranian military admitted its role.
Speaking at a vigil for some of those killed on Sunday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would “pursue justice and accountability” for what happened.
“We will not rest until there are answers,” Trudeau told a crowd of 2,300 in a basketball gymnasium in Edmonton, Alberta, home to 13 of the victims.