The seven young Iranians who were arrested for creating a dancing video response to Pharrell‘s “Happy” have been sentenced to jail time (ranging from six months to one year) and 91 lashes each, according to Associated Press. Attorney Farshid Rofugaran said his clients received suspended sentences, meaning that their verdicts will not be carried out unless they are found guilty of other crimes within the next three years.
The video, originally posted on YouTube back in May, features a group of six men and women harmlessly dancing to Pharrell’s ubiquitous pop smash in Iranian capital Tehran while wearing goofy clothes and sunglasses. (Islamic Republic law prohibits women from dancing in public or being outside without wearing the mandatory hair-covering veil, the hijab.) The dancers, along with the clip’s director, were detained and released that month, sparking international coverage and controversy.
The jail time is reportedly punishment for taking part in the video, while the 91 lashes result from “ignoring Islamic norms.” Rofugaran says one defendant received an additional six-month suspended sentence on charges of alcohol possession, which is illegal in Iran – though he notes that the alcohol in question was industrial alcohol, which his client needed for work.
“My clients did act in a video, and their actions are contrary to religious requirements but are not crimes to deserve legal punishment,” Rofugaran told The Associated Press on Friday. “Saying prayers is a religious obligation in Islam, but no one gets jail terms for not saying prayers. . . The happy part of the verdict is that it’s a three-year suspended sentence. The verdicts won’t be carried out unless my clients are found guilty in a court of law for the next three years.”
The lawyer says a written, formal verdict is expected soon and that he’ll have 20 days to appeal.
“We can accept the verdict or appeal,” Rofugaran told IranWire earlier this week, noting that his clients aren’t banned from leaving the country. “I will do what my clients want me to do. We are happy that both the prison sentences and the lashes are suspended.”
After their May arrest, the seven Iranians were humiliated and forced to repent for their actions on state television. But they found support from a dumbfounded Pharrell, who tweeted that month, “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.” Meanwhile, Iranian police chief Hossein Sajedinia called their “Happy” send-up “vulgar,” saying it “hurt public chastity.”