Iran's latest crackdown on freedom includes lashes and prison for seven young adults who posted a video of themselves dancing to the American pop hit "Happy" and a death sentence for a blogger accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad.
The seven men and women were arrested in May, but then released after self-professed "moderate" President Hassan Rouhani tweeted that the regime should lighten up. But the group was forced nonetheless to apologize on television and endure a trial in which they were convicted and each sentenced to 91 lashes. One was given a full year in prison while the others got six months, although their attorney told Iranwire.com the sentences were suspended.
“A suspended sentence becomes null and void after a certain period of time,” attorney Farshid Rofugaran said. For the Happy Group, that period will be three years. “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 video was part of a global campaign launched by pop star Pharrell Williams and was viewed by more than 100,000 people on YouTube. The six who appeared on the video and a man who shot the footage apologized and said they had been tricked into doing it. After the confession, they were released on bail.
“We can accept the verdict or appeal,” said Rofugaran, adding that his clients are not banned from leaving the country.
Meanwhile, the ultimate penalty was handed down to Soheil Arabi, a blogger found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in his postings on Facebook. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that Arabi will be able to appeal the decision.
Revolutionary Guard agents arrested Arabi, 30, and his wife last November. Arabi's wife was released a few hours later, but Arabi was kept in solitary confinement for two months inside the notorious Evin Prison before being found guilty of “sabb al-nabi” (insulting the Prophet), on Aug. 30.
“Soheil had eight Facebook pages under different names, and he was charged with insulting the Imams and the Prophet because of the contents of those pages. He has accepted his charges, but throughout the trial, he stated that he wrote the material without thinking and in poor psychological condition,” a source told the Campaign.