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Hackers interrupt Zoom news conference held by families of Iran plane crash victims


OTTAWA — Hackers targeted a Tuesday virtual news conference held by lawyers and family members of victims of the Iranian military's downing of a passenger jet two years ago.

The family members, along with their legal team, had begun a video media availability to discuss a court decision that awarded them millions.

An Ontario court awarded more than $107 million to families of six victims of the downing of the commercial airliner by Iranian missiles.

Lawyers Mark Arnold and Jonah Arnold called the damages decision "unprecedented in Canadian law."

Mark Arnold would not divulge how the legal team planned to collect money from the Iranian government, but said they knew where Iran's Canadian and international assets could be found.

"If anybody from the Islamic Republic of Iran is on this call, if the Supreme Leader is on this call, we're coming after your assets, gentlemen, in Iran," said Arnold. "We would encourage you to contact us and co-operate with us so that we can do it in an efficient and timely manner."

Moments later, the Zoom news conference exploded with heavy metal music and pornographic images that lasted for nearly three minutes before the lawyers ended the call. 

The lawyers did not attempt to reboot the news conference later Tuesday.

The court decision made public Monday followed a May ruling that the missile strikes amounted to an intentional act of terrorism, paving the way for relatives of those killed to seek compensation from Iran.

In the damages decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba found on a balance of probabilities that the missiles that shot down the Ukraine International Airlines Flight were fired deliberately at a time when there was no armed conflict in the area.

As a result, he found it constituted an act of terrorism that would invalidate Iran's immunity against civil litigation.

While the State Immunity Act protects foreign states from legal claims, the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act provides an exception in cases where the losses are caused by terrorist activity.

More than 100 of the 176 people killed in the plane crash on Jan. 8, 2020, had ties to Canada, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

Belobaba awarded $7 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages, plus interest, to the family members who went to court.

Jonah Arnold said his clients have not heard from the federal government since the ruling, and added that was not out of the ordinary during this particular case.

"We found the Canadian government to be difficult, and to be opaque and to be uncommunicative," he said. 

Global Affairs Canada had not responded to a request for comment as of late Tuesday afternoon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2022.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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