The dead body of a former Iranian judge accused of corruption in Tehran and of human rights violations by activists was found inside the hotel he was staying at in the Romanian capital Bucharest and not outside of it as suggested initially, according to media reports.
Gholamreza Mansouri, who fled Iran last year, had been accused of taking 500,000 euros in bribes. The Islamic Republic sought to have him extradited from Romania.
Mansouri was found dead on Friday outside the Duke Hotel in Bucharest where he was staying, RFE/RL’s Romanian service initially reported citing authorities. He died after falling out of a hotel window, the report said.
The same outlet later reported citing a Bucharest police spokesman that Mansouri’s body was found near the lobby inside the hotel and not on the sidewalk outside of the hotel as initially reported.
Bucharest police are investigating whether the incident was an accident, a suicide, or a murder.
Last week, Iran confirmed Interpol arrested Mansouri in Romania. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said Mansouri could not yet be extradited back to Iran due to coronavirus restrictions.
A judge in Bucharest had temporarily released Mansouri under “certain conditions” – which included him not being allowed to leave Romania – giving Iran until July 10 to present a formal extradition request, Radio Farda reported last week.
The judge had also ruled that Mansouri would not be handed over to Interpol until Romanian authorities could verify that his life would not be in danger if he was to be extradited to Iran.
In a video shared on social media on June 9, Mansouri had denied he is on the run, saying he is abroad to receive medical treatment, and that he will be returning to Iran soon. He did not specify what country he was in.
Mansouri’s promise to return was not “serious,” which is why Iran took legal action to have him arrested through Interpol, Esmaili said.
Mansouri was also accused of having been involved in the arrest and torture of dozens of journalists in Iran. This prompted a number of Iranian journalists and human rights activists to demand his arrest in Europe.
Iranian claims of suicide
Iran confirmed Mansouri’s death on Friday.
“We are waiting for the official report on the cause of this incident and we ask the Romanian authorities to officially inform us of the exact cause of the incident,” the official IRNA news agency reported foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying.
Iran’s Interpol chief Hadi Shirzad claimed on Friday that Romanian authorities have informed Tehran that Mansouri “threw himself out of his hotel window,” ruling his death a suicide.
“We received a message from Interpol in Bucharest stating that an unforeseen incident had occurred to Gholamreza Mansouri, and that he had thrown himself out of his hotel window,” the semi-official ISNA news agency reported Shirzad as saying.
Ali Bagheri, the secretary of the Iranian judiciary's human rights council, also told state TV on Friday that Mansouri “probably committed suicide.”
Soon after reports of Mansouri’s death emerged, the editor-in-chief of Mashreg News, a news website close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), hinted at a possible Iranian involvement.
“As of today, Romania is a point of strategic depth [for Iran],” he said in a now-deleted tweet.
Iran uses the term “strategic depth” to refer to its military and intelligence services’ influence beyond Iranian borders.