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Cover up

Air crash experts have raised serious concerns over the handling of the crash site of a Ukrainian airliner suspected to have been accidentally shot down by Iranian missiles, as fears grow that Tehran has sought to eliminate evidence from the area. Graham Braithwaite, professor of safety and accident investigation at Cranfield University, said the Iranian handling of the crash site, including the apparent quick removal of evidence, raised “serious concerns over the integrity of the investigation”.

“Where you have flight recorders that tell you what has happened you can move quickly to clearing the site,” he explained. “But if the recorders are damaged [as the Iranians have said] then all you have is the forensic evidence at the site to tell you the story.”

The Ukrainian foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said on Friday that it had been given access to the flight recorders and planned to start analysing their content.

Iran has invited investigators from Canada, Ukraine and Boeing to see the accident site on the outskirts of Tehran to prove the aircraft was not mistakenly targeted by Iranian air defences. It said it would also welcome representatives of other countries whose citizens died on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752.

Prystaiko said Ukrainian experts had been given access to the crash site but according to a crew from the US broadcaster CBS News who reached the crash site by 9am on Thursday morning, it appeared to have been cleared of the plane’s debris.

Canadians blame Trump

Calls for justice have continued to grow in Canada amid repeated denials from Iran that its missiles brought down a passenger jet which crashed near Tehran, killing 176 people – most of whom were traveling to Canadian cities. Canadian officials and members of the country’s transportation safety board are due to travel to Tehran to investigate the crash, although it remained unclear how much access they would be granted to the site.

Crowds gathered across the country to pay tribute to lost friends, co-workers and loved ones on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.

Yalda Norouzi was one of hundreds who attended a vigil on Thursday night in northern Toronto – a neighbourhood with so many Iranian-Canadian inhabitants that it is known as “Tehranto”.

Norouzi choked back tears as she recalled her friend Mahdieh Ghassem, who died alongside her two young children, Arnica and Arsan. A week before she left for Iran, Ghassem had won a commission to design a cafe for the popular Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons.

“They will stay alive in our hearts forever,” she said.

Patty De Frutos, was there to commemorate her co-worker, Alvand Sadeghi, a web developer who was killed in the crash alongside his wife, sister and niece.

“It’s just crazy how destiny works to steal the greatest. We all know he was the best out of all of us,” said De Frutos.

The city’s mayor, John Tory, pledged support for the Iranian community, saying “When one group suffers, we all suffer.”

But as more political and community leaders spoke, mourners grew frustrated.

“We want justice! We want justice!” mourners chanted as others laid candles and flowers at a makeshift memorial.

Earlier on Thursday, Justin Trudeau said that intelligence reports suggested that the plane had been brought down by an Iranian missile. The Canadian prime minister suggested the event may have been unintentional, but called for a thorough investigation.

“Canadians want answers. That means transparency, accountability and justice,” said the prime minister. “This government will not rest until we get that.”

Trudeau declined to lay blame on the US president, Donald Trump, whose decision to order a drone strike on Iran’s most senior general, Qassem Suleimani, stoked rising tensions in the Middle East. Hours before the Kyiv-bound passenger jet came down, Iran had fired a barrage of missiles at US bases in Iraq.

“I think that’s one of the many questions that people will be thinking about and trying to find answers to,” said Trudeau.

Others were less generous in their assessment. One tweet that went viral in Canada read: “The next time some ignorant American tells me, as a Canadian, that I should mind my own business when it comes to their politics, I think it would only be prudent to remind them of #IranPlaneCrash that took 63 Canadian lives due to the actions and fallout of their ‘President’.”