BERLIN — Journalist rights groups and Iranian dissidents are urging Romania not to deport a former Iranian official to his homeland to face corruption charges, saying he should be prosecuted in Europe for ordering the mass arrest of reporters while serving as a judge in Tehran.
Gholamreza Mansouri, 66, fled Iran last year after authorities there alleged he took some 500,000 euros ($560,000) in bribes as a judge. Details on the allegations haven't been released.
Mansouri made a video statement online last week denying the charges, saying he left Iran for unspecified medical treatment and that coronavirus travel restrictions prevented him from returning to face the charges.
"I will never, never, never turn my back to the system and my country. I consider the Islamic Republic as a shrine," he said.
Iran is seeking his extradition. The German chapter of Reporters Without Borders filed a complaint with federal prosecutors in Germany last week, urging that Mansouri be investigated on allegations of torture and human rights abuses for ordering the arrest of 20 reporters in Iran in 2013.
German prosecutors confirmed Wednesday they were looking into the complaint, and Reporters without Borders said it had now filed a second complaint with Romanian authorities after learning Mansouri had slipped away from Germany already.
"European governments and judiciary systems must act quickly to prevent Gholamreza Mansouri from escaping just punishment," said Christian Mihr, the Germany director of Reporters Without Borders.
"Nobody who has been involved in state crimes against journalists can be allowed to be safe from law enforcement in Europe," he said.
Mohammad Hooshyar Emami, an Iranian dissident living in Romania's capital of Bucharest since 1991, told The Associated Press he has filed a complaint with Romanian prosecutors in consultation with the Iranian exile opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq accusing Mansouri of human rights violations.
"I have also been a political prisoner of this regime and I know the torture and the pain that these freedom-fighting people undergo at the hands of the regime," he said in a telephone interview.
It was not clear when Mansouri traveled to Romania, but Iran's judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaeili said June 13 that Mansouri had been arrested there and was expected to be returned to Iran "in the following days."
Romanian authorities did not immediately return calls seeking comment. A decision posted on a Bucharest appeals court website dated June 12 said Mansouri had been freed from custody and placed under "judicial control" for 30 days while Iran's request for his extradition was under review, meaning he cannot leave Romania and must show up if summoned. Iran's embassy did not return calls.
Mansouri is best known for ordering the mass arrest of the reporters in 2013 toward the end of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's time in office.
But in 2012, he also banned the reformist Shargh daily newspaper and detained its editor-in-chief over a published cartoon that authorities deemed insulting to those who fought in the Iran-Iraq war.
Scott Griffen, deputy director of the Vienna-based International Press Institute, called Mansouri a "key figure responsible for the arbitrary mass persecution of journalists in Iran.
"Romanian authorities should take the necessary steps to ensure that he is held accountable for his actions in a court of law in Europe," Griffen said. "It is highly unlikely that his extradition to Iran would result in any form of justice."
Vadim Ghirda in Bucharest contributed to this story.