‘Slipped the net’: Iranian judge’s mysterious death angers activists

Fugitive Iranian judge Gholamreza Mansouri plunged to his death from a top floor of his hotel in Bucharest last week. Above, forensic investigators work at the scene. (AFP)
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Updated 26 June 2020

‘Slipped the net’: Iranian judge’s mysterious death angers activists

  • Gholamreza Mansouri was wanted by Tehran on accusations he took a $560,000 bribe
  • He was initially arrested by Romanian authorities for extradition but then allowed to go free under judicial supervision

PARIS: The unexplained death of a fugitive Iranian judge, who plunged from a top floor of his hotel in Bucharest last week, has infuriated activists who say a rare chance has been missed to bring a senior Iranian official to justice over alleged rights violations.
Gholamreza Mansouri’s body was found by Romanian police on June 19, with the possibility of suicide so far their only lead, according to a police source.
But activists are furious that such a significant figure had not been held in custody to face eventual justice — and for his own protection.
Mansouri, 52, was wanted by Tehran on accusations he took a $560,000 bribe, part of a high-profile case that has seen 22 people go on trial, including former senior judiciary official Akbar Tabari.
Mansouri had fled Iran last year, first going to Germany and then moving on to Romania, and was the subject of an Iranian arrest warrant.
He was initially arrested by Romanian authorities for extradition but then allowed to go free under judicial supervision.
But activists in Europe also wanted him investigated for rights violations while in his post, which focused on culture and media cases.
The Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) filed a complaint against him with prosecutors in Germany on June 11 — and then two days later in Romania, when he moved there — alleging he was responsible for the persecution, detention and torture of Iranian journalists in a notorious 2013 crackdown.
“The facts against him were massive,” said Antoine Bernard, senior adviser on international strategic litigation with RSF, adding that there was a strong basis in both German and Romanian law to file the complaints.
He said the group had the testimony of 20 Iranian journalists accusing Mansouri of arbitrary arrest and detention, and treatment that was “at the very least inhumane and degrading and involved torture.”
He said that RSF was “outraged” by his death as well as the decision of the Romanian authorities not to detain Mansouri “for the sake of his own protection against any Iranian threat and against himself.”
The Justice for Iran NGO said it had made an appeal for witnesses to come forward after it emerged that Mansouri was in Europe.
It had already collected testimony from eight people who said they were the judge’s victims.
“Beyond reasonable doubt, I can confirm that Mansouri was responsible for several arbitrary arrests and detention, usually in solitary confinement, the closing down of online businesses and start-ups, and the persecution of the families of journalists and media activists,” the group’s executive director Shadi Sadr said.
But she said it had not received evidence he was responsible for torture or other crimes that could see him face trial in Germany or Romania under universal jurisdiction, where one state prosecutes a defendant for a crime committed on another foreign territory.
This, Sadr said, highlighted the difficulties faced by victims hoping to find justice abroad, “where there is little room for criminal prosecution.”
Kaveh Moussavi, a British lawyer who played an instrumental role in the arrest of a former Iranian prosecutor in Sweden last year on charges of involvement in the mass executions of prisoners in the late 1980s, said it was “extremely frustrating that he (Mansouri) slipped the net.”
Moussavi had been building a case against Mansouri based on charges he had “held hostage” in prison the family of Saeed Karimian, founder of the Istanbul-based Persian satellite television network Gem TV, who was gunned down in the Turkish city in 2017.
“Had we been able to bring him back and put him on trial... I am pretty sure we would have convicted him,” Moussavi said.
“If we had convicted this man, not a single member of the Iranian judiciary would have been able to step into the EU after that,” he said.
“We lost the chance of putting the entire Iranian judicial system on trial.”
The principle of universal jurisdiction has gained prominence in recent years, in particular with the civil war in Syria that has resulted in both oppressors and victims becoming refugees in Europe.
Two alleged former Syrian intelligence officers went on trial in Germany in April on charges of crimes against humanity in the first-ever court case over claims of state-sponsored torture by President Bashar Assad’s government.
RSF vowed that Mansouri’s death — whatever its cause — would not deter the group from pursuing other alleged rights violators from Iran and elsewhere.
“We urge prosecutors to move much faster when such situations do occur,” Bernard said.
For Sadr, the biggest loss from Mansouri’s death was the chance to hear how Iran’s system works from a figure who was at its heart.
“If he had remained in Europe and spoken out, Mansouri would have become someone whose confessions would have had a massive domino effect on other perpetrators to disclose information in response,” she said.


Gulf countries to vaccinate those vulnerable to COVID-19 infections  

Updated 29 October 2020

Gulf countries to vaccinate those vulnerable to COVID-19 infections  

  • Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court has announced that the families of those who died from COVID-19 will receive the coronavirus vaccine as a priority
  • Omani authorities announced that over one million doses of coronavirus vaccine had been ordered

DUBAI: Gulf countries have begun to implement plans for the vaccinations of those at most at risk of COVID-19 infections and those who were bereaved. 
The Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court has announced that the families of those who died from COVID-19 will receive the coronavirus vaccine as a priority. 
The campaign was launched in cooperation with the Department of Health-Abu Dhabi to protect the health of families around the country, Sheikh Khalifa bin Tahnoon Al-Nahyan, Executive Director of the Martyrs’ Families’ Affairs Office at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court said on Wednesday.  
Since the start of the pandemic, the Martyrs’ Families’ Affairs Office has maintained communication with the families of those who lost their lives to the virus to help them handle its consequences, state news agency Wam reported. 
Kuwait has also announced that the elderly, patients with chronic disease, front line medics and providers of basic services will be vaccinated against COVID-19 once shipments arrive.  
The Kuwaiti health minister, Basel Al-Sabah, said these measures aimed to curtail coronavirus complications, infections and hospitalizations. 
Meanwhile, Omani authorities announced that over one million doses of coronavirus vaccine had been ordered, which the health ministry aims to use before the end of the year.
A second batch of 1.8 million has also been ordered, according to the state news agency ONA.
“We hope to vaccinate about 60 percent of citizens and residents so that we could attain total immunity in the community,” said the Minister of Health, Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Saeedi. 
The minister, who is a member of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, has said the Sultanate seeks to obtain COVID-19 vaccine from any globally accredited institution.