Security officials seized Ghanilou, 30, from his home in Zanjan, the capital of northwestern Zanjan province, on June 27, his brother, Tavakol Ghanilou, told CPJ. They held Ghanilou for nearly four months at the Ministry of Intelligence and Security jail in Zanjan before transferring him on October 21 to another prison, Tavakol Ghanilou said.
Ghanilou had not been tried when CPJ conducted its December 1 census, and the charges against him had not been disclosed. Tavakol Ghanilou told CPJ that he believed Ghanilou’s articles about the civil and cultural rights of Iran’s ethnic Azerbaijani minority were behind his current detention.
Authorities had arrested Ghanilou earlier in the year as well. On February 21, he was seized while attending a protest in Zanjan organized by Azeri journalists and cultural activists for International Mother Language Day. They were demonstrating against government restrictions prohibiting them from writing and publishing material in their native language. He was released on bail after spending 26 days in solitary confinement. Tavakol Ghanilou told Advar News, which is affiliated with the Office for Fostering Unity, a pro-reform student organization, that Ghanilou was subjected to physical and psychological torture during that detention. That case remained pending in late year, Tavakol Ghanilou told CPJ.
Ghanilou worked as a freelancer for several local newspapers, including the daily Mardom-e No, the weekly Farday-e Roushan, the now-defunct weekly Omid-e Zanjan, and the monthly magazine Payk-e Azerbaijan, according to Alireza Javanbakht, spokesman for the Committee to Defend Azerbaijan’s Political Prisoners.