The Iranian youths who produced the dance video “Happy in Tehran” set to the Pharrell Williams hit song “Happy” were put on trial in Tehran on September 9, 2014, where they were charged with “participation in producing a vulgar video clip” and conducting “illicit relations” with one another, an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
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 the source, all principals involved in the making of the video, Sassan Soleimani, Reyhaneh Taravati, Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi, Roham Shamekhi, and a suspect known by the first name of Sepideh were present at the trial session. The court, presided over by Judge Heydari, will announce its ruling over the coming days.
In addition to the charges leveled against the group, one of the suspects, Reyhaneh Taravati, is also accused of “possession of alcohol” in her home and of “uploading and distribution of the clip on YouTube.” Another suspect, Sassan Soleimani, is also accused of 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).
The arrests triggered an international outcry, especially after the accused were featured in the news on Iranian state television, before they were formally charged, and forced to express remorse for their participation in the video. Forced confessions broadcast on state television is a routine practice in Iran.
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.
The accused were last summoned to the Culture and Arts Division of the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office for questioning between June 16 and June 19. They were asked questions such as, “Whose idea was it to make the video?” and “Who uploaded the video on YouTube?”