Iranian authorities have called the plane crash an "unforgivable mistake." Meanwhile, videos have allegedly shown police firing tear gas and bullets at demonstrators in Tehran. Police have denied shooting at protesters.
Iran's government on Monday denied a "cover-up" after its armed forces took three days to admit that a passenger plane was downed 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.
Police shooting protesters?
Meanwhile, Tehran's police chief has denied that Iranian police officers shot at demonstrators protesting the downing of the Ukrainian International Airlines jet that left all 176 passengers dead. Hassan Roheimi said in a statement carried by Iran's state broadcaster that officers had been ordered to "show restraint."
The denial was in response to footage on social media which purported to show Iranian police and security forces firing both live ammunition and tear gas at demonstrators in Tehran.
The videos, which were posted by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran on Sunday, could not be immediately verified. The images also showed blood on the ground and security personnel carrying rifles in the area. Meanwhile, other social media posts supposedly showed images of police in riot gear hitting demonstrators with batons.
Another video shows a woman being carried away from the protests, while people around her call out that she has been shot in the leg by live ammunition. The events allegedly took place at Azadi (Freedom) square in Tehran. Police also patrolled at Vali-e Asr Square, at Tehran University, and other landmarks around the city.
Demonstrators were gathering to demand the resignation of all officials who played a role in the Ukrainian International Airlines crash, and to denounce the immediate concealment of the facts.
Protesters were also filmed on Sunday chanting "Death to the dictator," referring to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini. Other chants included "They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here."
Both German and US officials have publicly voiced their support for the demonstrators. The Iranian people must be allowed to "protest peacefully and freely" following the Ukrainian airliner disaster, said German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr. She added that Iranians have the right to protest to express their "grief and also their anger," and that Germany is convinced that "this has to happen in a peaceful, free and unhindered way."
US President Donald Trump also threw his weight behind the demonstrators in Iran on Sunday and Monday, writing, "To the leaders of Iran - do not kill your protesters... The world is watching."
The downing of the Ukrainian International Airlines jet has sparked new demonstrations and calls for Khameini to resign. The downing occurred hours after Iran had fired at US bases to retaliate for the killing of Iran's most powerful military leader, Qassem Soleimani.
After blaming the event on a technical failure for three days, Iranian authorities took responsibility for the downing of the plane, calling it an "unforgivable mistake."
lc/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)