• Iranian protestors led by university students again take to the streets to demand the ouster of the country's theocratic leadership
  • They demand Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei resign
  • Iranian riot police violently disperse demonstrators on January 11 and 12

Led by angry university students, anti-government protests across Iran entered their second straight day Sunday with crowds calling for the country's theocratic leadership to step down and again assailing them for lying to the people about the destruction of a Ukrainian jetliner.

The largest street protests involving around 3,000 persons again took place in Tehran where marchers trooped to Azadi (Freedom) Square to vent their anger against the country's leadership. As with the protest Saturday, the one Sunday was violently dispersed by Iranian riot police and other units using baton charges and tear gas, said the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).

Before being chased away, protestors urged police to join them and shouted anti-government slogans such as “Down with the dictator,” a clear reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In Iran, criticizing the country's leaders is punishable by up to two years imprisonment.

“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” one group of protesters chanted outside a university in Tehran as shown in a Twitter video. The renewed protest action was triggered by Iran's admission Saturday one of its surface-to-air missile batteries had fired two surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) that destroyed Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) on January 8. The plane was en route from Tehran to Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, when it shot down in the vicinity of Tehran. Iran originally denied shooting down the plane and blamed technical difficulties for the crash.

Iranian officials confirmed some 130 people on board the ill-fated plane were Iranian. Most of these passengers were returning to Canada via Ukraine. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 138 of the 167 passengers were travelling to Canada.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed the shoot down on "human error at time of crisis caused by U.S. adventurism.”

For three days, Iran's religious rulers denied reports missiles fired by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) blasted the defenseless Ukrainian plane from the sky. An Iranian government spokesman criticized Western countries of "lying and engaging in psychological warfare."

On Saturday morning, however, a statement on state TV admitted the plane was shot down "unintentionally" by the IRCG. IRGC aerospace commander Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh later accepted full responsibility for the horrific disaster. He said a SAM operator acted independently and without orders. This man mistook the passenger jet for a cruise missile and launched the SAMs at the passenger plane.

"When I confirmed what had happened, I really wished I could die myself," said Gen. Hajizadeh.

For his part, president Donald Trump told Iran's leaders in a tweet, "DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS.”

Iranians students demonstrate following a tribute for the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737
Iranians students demonstrate following a tribute for the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 AFP / Atta KENARE