FILE PHOTO: A person looks on as people gather to take part in a march to mark the first anniversary of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, which was shot down near Tehran by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

Nov 24 (Reuters) – High-level Iranian officials were responsible for the 2020 downing of a Ukrainian jetliner by Revolutionary Guards and the crash was not an accident caused by a missile system operator, families of victims said in a report on Wednesday.

The report by an association representing 140 of the victims of Flight PS752 challenges Iran‘s official findings that blamed a misaligned radar and an error by the air defense operator for the downing of the plane shortly after it took off from Tehran’s Airport. All 176 people aboard were killed.

Tehran said the operator mistook the jet for a missile at a time when tensions were high between Iran and the United States.

The report runs more than 200 pages and was prepared by the association’s fact-finding committee with assistance from aviation and legal experts. It is not an official air crash accident report, which is designed not to focus on liability but to see how safety can be improved in the future.

“It is the belief of the association that high-ranking officials of Iran are responsible for the downing of Flight PS752 and not just a handful of low ranking…members as per the claims of the government of Iran,” the association report said.

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The report underscored the ongoing dispute over Iran‘s official findings, which have been criticized by Ukraine and Canada as the Islamic Republic had responsibility for investigating the circumstances and causes of the crash.

Many of the victims killed in the crash were Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

A Canadian investigation into the crash reported in June that it found no evidence Iran‘s downing of the jet was premeditated but condemned what it called the incompetence and recklessness of those responsible.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs department is analyzing the victim association’s latest report, a government spokeswoman said.

The report said the missile system operator had vast experience and expertise with short-range missile systems, including service in Syria, and should have been able to distinguish the jetliner from a cruise missile.

The association, composed of mostly Canadian families of crash victims, said the report used public information and recordings of “high-ranking Iranian officials” among its sources.

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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