By Aresu Eqbali and Sune Engel Rasmussen 

Iranian authorities said they arrested a number of individuals in connection with the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner last week that killed 176 people, as public outrage and calls for accountability grow.

The judiciary didn't say how many people were arrested or identify those detained, but said it was in the early stages of the process to prosecute them. "We will investigate all the aspects of this issue," judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said in remarks carried by state television.

He said Iran would also investigate whether "U.S. warmongering" was to blame.

Iranian officials said at the weekend that its military shot down the Boeing Co. 737-800 plane by mistake, after denying responsibility for days.

The single-aisle jet operated by Ukraine International Airlines crashed four hours after Iran had launched military strikes against the U.S. in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of a top general, and was on high alert for a potential U.S. response.

Protesters took to the streets at the weekend in response to the military's admission, denouncing what they called lying and incompetence by the country's leadership.

While the demonstrations have largely subsided, the judiciary spokesman said Tuesday that about 30 people had been arrested in the protests in what he called "the first phase," a reference to the possibility of more detentions.

The shooting down of the passenger aircraft, and the initial explanations of technical failure from Iranian authorities, have sparked anger across Iran. At least a dozen directors, actors and other artists said they are boycotting Iran's largest event for contemporary art, the Fajr festival, this spring.

Police on Monday briefly detained one of Iran's most prominent female movie directors, Rakhshan Banietemad, after she on Instagram called on people to gather at Tehran's Azadi Square to pay respect to the victims of the plane crash. Other vigils in the capital over the weekend turned into protests.

Prominent state television anchor Gelareh Jabbari announced her resignation on Instagram, apologizing to viewers for lying to them for 13 years. Her post was later removed.

Amid the outcry, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged the country's judiciary to establish a special court of high-ranking judges and experts to hold to account those responsible for the plane crash.

He said accountability was necessary not just for the sake of the victims but also for the Iranian people.

"Anyone who should be punished will be punished," Mr. Rouhani said in a televised speech, his first public remarks since the plane was shot down. "The whole world will be watching our trial."

Write to Sune Engel Rasmussen at sune.rasmussen@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 14, 2020 07:07 ET (12:07 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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