By Frank Elbers
July 15, 2020
The body of Gholamreza Mansouri, a former judge wanted on corruption charges, will be returned from Romania to Iran once coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, Abbas Mousavi, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry announced in a press conference on July 13. This came despite news that no one — not his family or the Iranian embassy — had “claimed” his body.
Mansouri was found dead in mysterious circumstances at a Bucharest hotel on June 19, where he had been waiting for extradition to Iran.
Iranian embassy officials in Bucharest met with forensic officials of the Institute of Forensic Medicine last week to discuss the repatriation of the former judge’s body. They decided Mansouri’s body could be transported to Iran after the hearings about the investigation results and about his repatriation had finished and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic were lifted. Currently there are no flights from European Union countries to Iran.
The news comes after Romanian media reported last week that Mansouri’s body had been “abandoned,” as neither the Iranian embassy nor his family had claimed the body, and that it would be buried at a cemetery in Bucharest at the expense of city hall.
Mansouri’s body is being kept in the morgue of Institutul de Medicină Legală Mina Minovici [the Mina Minovici Institute of Forensic Medicine] in a leafy neighborhood in the southern outskirts of Bucharest, a city of 2 million people. The body was taken there immediately after it was found in the lobby of a hotel in the center of Bucharest on June 19. The autopsy was conducted there, and forensic specialists and investigators have been deliberating the possible causes of his death. Media are prohibited from accessing the building and people based there working on the case refused to speak to IranWire about their work.
Mansouri, a former judge who had been convicted in Iran on corruption charges, had apparently fled to Germany and subsequently traveled to Romania in early June, where he was detained by authorities after Interpol had issued an arrest warrant for the fugitive. On June 12, Mansouri appeared in court, as Iran had requested his extradition for allegedly accepting a €500,000 bribe. The Bucharest Court of Appeal rejected the prosecutor’s request for Mansouri to remain in police custody and ordered the authorities to evaluate if he could be safely extradited to Iran. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had also appealed to prosecutors in Germany on June 11 to arrest Mansouri over alleged human rights abuses, including crimes against humanity, a request RSF repeated on June 13 in an appeal to Romanian authorities.
Not allowed to leave the country and required to report to a local police station regularly, Gholamreza Mansouri had stayed at the Hotel Duke in downtown Bucharest’s Piața Romană roundabout, awaiting his next court hearing scheduled for July 10. It was here that his body was found on Friday, June 19 under suspect circumstances. The results of the autopsy showed that he had fallen from a significant height and his death was caused by traumatic injuries after he hit a hard surface.
On July 13, the Bucharest Court of Appeal handed down a final sentence in Mansouri’s extradition “Given that the requested person died before the extradition request was resolved, pursuant to Article 52 of Law No. 302/2004, the Court will reject the extradition request made by the Islamic Republic of Iran,” read the sentence handed down by the Bucharest Court of Appeal. The same Court of Appeal was the target of a bomb threat on June 29. The court building, a 19th-century palace, was evacuated and pedestrian and car traffic restricted in the area, a busy thoroughfare along the Dâmbovița River. But police did not find an explosive device and nor could the call during which the threat was made be verified.
Meanwhile, Romanian authorities remain tightlipped. Both the Bucharest Police and the Prosecutor’s Office would not give a comment to IranWire about the progress of the investigation and when the case will be brought before a court. The Bucharest Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Simona Mihaela Prescorniță told IranWire that a press release outlining the final results of the investigation is expected to be released soon.
Iran had urged the Romanian government to clarify the cause of Mansouri’s death. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Seyed Abbas Mousavi said on June 29 that ambiguities over the facts of the incident remain, and the Romanian government has so far failed to inform Iranian officials about the investigation process, despite several requests.
An earlier complaint by the Iranian authorities was rebuked by Romanian authorities on June 22. Romania’s foreign ministry had summoned Iranian ambassador Morteza Aboutalebi to discuss Mansouri’s death, and warned Aboutalebi that the case was the subject of an ongoing investigation. Romanian officials told him that the results would be communicated to Iranian authorities via official channels immediately after the investigation had been completed.
As IranWire reported previously, the Romanian judicial system is relatively impartial and independent and the investigative team appears to have taken ample time to thoroughly examine all evidence in the case without being affected by political pressure applied by Iranian authorities. They will conclude whether Mansouri’s death was an accident, murder or suicide.