Iranian judge found dead in Romania not a person who wanted suicide: Lawyer

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Gholamreza Mansouri, a former Iranian judge and cleric who was found dead at a hotel in the Romanian capital Bucharest on Friday, was not a person who would take his own life, his lawyer said on Saturday.

Mansouri, who was accused of corruption in Tehran and of human rights violations by activists, was found dead at the hotel he was staying at in Bucharest on Friday after falling from a height.

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“What we and his family fully believe is that [Mansouri] was not the type of person who would want to commit suicide,” Mansouri’s lawyer Amirhossein Najafpoursani told the semi-official ILNA news agency on Saturday.

While police in Bucharest are investigating whether the incident was an accident, a suicide, or a murder, 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.

Mansouri went to the Iranian embassy in Bucharest on June 10 and spent the night there, according to Najafpoursani.

“[Mansouri] was in the embassy from Wednesday afternoon until Thursday evening, at which point he was taken to the hospital for feeling unwell,” he said.

Mansouri was arrested by Romanian police as soon as he got to the hospital, Najafpoursani said.

Some users on social media pointed out the close distance between the Duke Hotel – where Mansouri was staying – and the Iranian embassy in Bucharest. It takes one minute by car and eight minutes on foot to get to the hotel from the Iranian embassy, according to Google Maps.

Read more: Iran judge accused of corruption, human rights violations arrested in Romania

Arrested on June 13, dead on June 19

On June 13, 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 on June 13.

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.

Mansouri had spoken to a family member on Friday before noon and seemed to be in good health, Najafpoursani said.

“As soon as I heard the news of his death, I checked his WhatsApp and saw that it was last seen at 15:15 p.m. [Tehran time],” he said.

Tehran is one hour and 30 minutes ahead of Bucharest. This means Mansouri may have used his phone for the last time at 13:45 p.m. local time.

Mansouri’s dead body was found at 14:30 p.m. local time, which does not contradict Mansouri’s lawyer’s claim.

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Iran holds Romania responsible, says lawyer

“We currently hold the Romanian police and the Romanian government responsible for his death,” said Najafpoursani.

Mansouri was “very eager” to return to Iran and expected Iranian authorities to return him to the country as soon as possible, he said.

Najafpoursani said the last time he spoke to Mansouri was on June 9. Mansouri stressed his intention to return to Iran during the call, according to Najafpoursani.

“Mansouri said I want to defend myself in my own country and I have a lot to say,” said Najafpoursani.

In a video shared on social media on June 9, Mansouri 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.

Judiciary spokesman Esmaili said Mansouri’s promise to return was not “serious,” which is why Iran took legal action to have him arrested through Interpol.

Najafpoursani suggested using the hotel’s security cameras to clarify some of the details surrounding Mansouri’s death.

Mansouri was also accused of having been involved in the arrest and torture of dozens of journalists in Iran, which prompted a number of Iranian journalists and human rights activists to demand his arrest in Europe.