Happy Video Youths Receive Suspended Flogging and Prison Sentences
The youths involved in the making of the “Happy in Tehran” dance video set to Pharrell Williams hit song “Happy” have all been sentenced, receiving suspended sentences of 91 lashes and six months in prison, with the exception of Reyhaneh Taravati, who received a suspended twelve-month prison sentence in addition to the suspended lashes, provided they do not engage in any “wrongdoings” during the next three years. The court ruling was unofficially announced in Tehran today, according to a source who told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran about the ruling.
Judge Heydari presided over the September 9, 2014 trial session of Sassan Soleimani, Reyhaneh Taravati, Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi, Roham Shamekhi, and a suspect known by the first name of Sepideh, on charges of “participation in producing a vulgar video clip” and conducting “illicit relations” with one another. All suspects and their lawyers were present at the trial session.
Lawyers for the defendants objected to the brutal police treatment of the suspects and raids on their homes during the arrests, as well as the new charges of illicit relations leveled against the youths, and demanded that the court address their objections, according to a September 9 Campaign interview with an informed source.
In addition to the charges leveled against the group, one of the suspects, Reyhaneh Taravati, was also charged with “possession of alcohol” in her home and of “uploading and distribution of the clip on YouTube.” Another suspect, Sassan Soleimani, was charged with directing the video. The Campaign has been informed that the charges against the group were based on information obtained from material confiscated during the raid on the individuals’ homes, such as personal photographs and videos found on their personal computers.
On May 19, 2014, the six youths involved in the “Happy” video were detained and transferred to the Tehran Morality Police’s Vozara Complex, after the video, posted on YouTube, had gone viral. They were released two days later, after posting bails of between 30 to 50 million toman (approximately $10,000 to $16,000). Sassan Soleimani, the video’s director, was arrested on May 20, 2014, and held in detention for several days. He was released on May 29, 2014, on bail of 50 million toman (approximately $16,000).
Soleimani, a 33-year-old filmmaker and animator, was previously arrested for making the “Soosan Khanom” video for the Barobax pop band in Iran. Soleimani told Zendegi Ideal (Ideal Life) magazine in 2013 that when he was taking photos for Hassan Rouhani’s presidential campaign, campaign officials asked him to suggest a color for campaign materials and he chose purple, which became Rouhani’s official color during the campaign.