TORONTO (Reuters) - A court in the Canadian province of Ontario ruled on Thursday that Iran owes damages to families who sued after Iran's Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020, soon after it took off from Tehran.
Ontario's Superior Court of Justice found that "on a balance of probabilities" the missile attack was an intentional act of terrorism, based mainly on written evidence provided by lawyers representing families of some of the victims.
Iran did not defend itself in court. Calls and an email to the office in Washington that handles consular affairs for Iranians in Canada were not immediately answered.
As many as 138 of the 176 people killed on the flight had ties to Canada.
The judge did not rule on damages, which will be dealt with at a future hearing. When it was first filed, the lawsuit sought at least C$1.5 billion ($1.2 billion) in compensation.
The Iranian government has said the jet's downing was a "disastrous mistake" by forces who were on high alert during a confrontation with the United States.
Foreign states are not typically within the jurisdiction of Canadian courts, but a 2012 Canadian law limited that immunity for countries listed as "foreign state supporters of terrorism," including Iran.
Canada does not have formal diplomatic relations with Iran, and claiming damages will likely be lengthy and complex, but it has been done before.
The lawsuit names Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, top commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and others.
Mark Arnold, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, has represented clients in other lawsuits against Iran, including a 2017 decision that led to the seizure of some Iranian assets in Canada.
($1 = 1.2054 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Allison Martell; editing by Grant McCool)