A group of seven Iranian men and women who created and starred in their own version of a video for Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ have each been given suspended sentences of prison time and 91 lashes.
The fun-loving friends were arrested in May after posting their homemade music video ‘Happy in Tehran’ to YouTube.
They were forced to publicly confess and apologise on national television before being released on bail, with police chief Hossein Sajedinia warning others that the video was “a vulgar clip” which “hurt public chastity”.
Their lawyer Farshid Rofugaran told English-language Iranian news outlet IranWire that six of the group were yesterday given six months in prison and 91 lashes, while a seventh – the Director of the video – was also given 91 lashes but one year in jail. The sentences are suspended for three years.
“A suspended sentence becomes null and void after a certain period of time,” he said.
“When it’s a suspended sentence, the verdict is not carried out, but if during this period a similar offense is committed, then the accused is subject to legal punishment and the suspended sentence will then be carried out as well.”
The announcement of the arrests earlier this year drew widespread criticism and even led to Pharrell Williams tweeting that it was “beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness”.
Prior to their detainment, the group had given an interview to IranWire, stating that they were all involved in the arts and wanted to respond to singer Mr Williams’ viral campaign which had aimed to get people around the world to upload videos of themselves “demonstrating their happiness” for the UN’s International Day of Happiness.
“We wanted to tell the world that the Iranian capital is full of lively young people and change the harsh and rough image that the world sees on the news,” said Neda, one of its stars.
She said they had shown the finished product to their parents who were proud and concerned in equal measures because they knew the group liked to challenge perceptions and “push the envelope”.
Lawyer Mr Rofugaran said that the group were pleased that the sentences are suspended and that they could either accept it or appeal.
When asked about the terms and conditions of the sentence he confirmed: “They are not banned from leaving the country. Some of them have even travelled abroad during this time.”
Champa Patel, from Amnesty International UK, censured the sentence and told MailOnline: "Arresting people for dancing in a video tribute to a song called Happy is taking things to a new level of dark irony even for the authoritarian Iranian authorities.
"Iran already stamps all over freedom of expression, banning the use of satellite dishes, filtering the internet, and jailing journalists, artists and film directors. The authorities should stop persecuting these people and drop this ludicrous case against them."
A cartoon entitled 'Anti-Happy Decision in Iran' was published on IranWire depicting a mouth being dragged into a frown by Lady Justice.
The end credits of the video – which can still be viewed online though the original has been made private – reads: “We have made this video as Pharrell Williams fans in 8hrs with iPhone 5S. ‘Happy’ was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it. Hope it puts a smile on your face.”