Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Canada's special advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the shootdown of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran early this year has raised concerns over the Middle Eastern nation's investigation into the disaster.
In a report submitted to Trudeau on Tuesday, former cabinet minister Ralph Goodale said much is still unknown about the incident and Iran should not be investigating it.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down by two surface-to-air missiles launched by the Iranian military minutes after taking off from Tehran on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people on board.
Goodale said since Iran's military and civilian authorities cleared the plane for take off and it was its military that shot it down, Tehran's investigation into the incident "raises obvious concerns about credibility, conflicts of interests and a lack of transparency and accountability."
"The party responsible for the situation is investigating itself, largely in secret. That does not inspire confidence or trust," Goodale said in the 74-page report.
Goodale, who was appointed to lead the independent investigation in March, said Canada has consistently called for the complete and credible investigation into both technical safety matters and criminal responsibilities into the disaster, but the probes are compromised as Iran is leading both investigations, as prescribed by international rules and domestic laws.
Iran controls the crash site, most of the evidence and witnesses, has the practical ability to identify and interview suspects and is in full control of any first-hand criminal investigation, leaving much left unanswered, he said.
"The wold has been informed that as many as six Iranian individuals have been charged with certain offenses in connection with the destruction of PS752 and its 176 fatalities, but no information has been made available about who these people are, what they are alleged to have done, their degree or level of responsibility, the evidence being used against them, the substance of their defense and the exact judicial process by which their guilt or innocence is being or will be determined," he said.
The report adds that further issues are raised over Iran's investigation due to its quick "disruption and contamination" of the crash site, the delay in downloading flight information from the plane's black boxes and instances of harassment and intimidation of some of the victims' families, including at funerals, as well as the withholding of the deceaseds' effects.
Iran has blamed the shootdown on human error amid its air defense system being placed on high alert due to rapidly escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Tehran has said a mobile missile unit moved to a temporary position at the airport was misaligned by its operator, who then decided alone to fire two surface-to-air missiles at the plane believing it to be an enemy aircraft following a communication failure with their commander.
Goodale said in the report that given the "extraordinary nature" of the events, it's understandable that the victims' families find it difficult to accept Iran's explanation.
"To remove doubt and relieve anxiety, Iran bears a heavy burden of responsibility to be completely comprehensive and transparent in substantiating its explanations with credible, compelling evidence, which has not yet been forthcoming," he said.
The report continues that there are similar concerns among the civil aviation community, stating if Iran does not fully reveal the information it has concerning the event, "there will be lingering worry about air safety in the region and ongoing doubts about those in charge."
"In the circumstances of this case, as known thus far, there are indications of incompetence, recklessness and wanton disregard for innocent life," he said. "It is incumbent upon Iran to respond to these concerns in candid and compelling terms, or risk the loss of international confidence in its ability to maintain a safe airspace."
Among the victims of the flight, 138 had ties to Canada, 55 of of whom were citizens and 30 were permanent residents though citizens of Afghanistan, Britain, Ukraine and Sweden were also on board.
Trudeau said in a statement that he has accepted the report.
"Canadians must remain steadfast in our search for transparency, accountability and justice the families need and deserve," he said.