US police question anti-Islam filmmaker

2012-09-15 22:33
In this image from video provided by CBS2-KCAL9, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind the anti-Muslim movie that has inflamed the Middle East, is escorted by police from his home. (CBS2-KCAL9/ AP)

In this image from video provided by CBS2-KCAL9, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind the anti-Muslim movie that has inflamed the Middle East, is escorted by police from his home. (CBS2-KCAL9/ AP)

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Los Angeles - US federal authorities questioned early on Saturday the alleged brains behind the film that has inflamed much of the Muslim world by lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, but quickly released him.

Nakoula Besseley Nakoula was "given a ride" from his southern California home to the interview shortly after midnight, with investigators seeking to establish if he broke the terms of his probation over a bank fraud conspiracy, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Don Walker said.

A man later emerged from the police station wearing a coat, hat, scarf and glasses, a local NBC News affiliate reported.

The anti-Islam film - entitled Innocence of Muslims on its 14-minute YouTube trailer - was produced by a US religious group called Media for Christ and reportedly directed by a pornographer.

Nakoula, a US-based Egyptian Coptic Christian, has previously admitted uploading the trailer on the internet.

In 2010 he was convicted of defrauding US banks by opening false accounts and passing bad checks, court documents show, and he served one year before being released on probation.

Director a pornographer

As part of his release terms, he was forbidden from using computers or the internet for five years and ordered to pay more than $790 000 in restitution.

His questioning on Saturday did not take long, Walker said, though the outpouring of anger about the film persists - as do enquiries into its origin.

The film was directed by 65-year-old Alan Roberts, an industry veteran whose prior oeuvre was dominated by schlock soft porn and hammy action with titles like Young Lady Chatterley II and Karate Cop, according to website Gawker.

Gawker interviewed members of the cast of Innocence of Muslims, who say they were duped into appearing in what they thought was a fictional epic, only to discover their lines had been dubbed over with anti-Muslim propaganda.

Roberts's casting call lists the leading roles as George, Condalisa and Hillary. But in the finished version the script was doctored to make them represent the prophet and key figures from the Qur'an.

The film was promoted by a network of right-wing Coptic and Evangelical Christians with a radical anti-Muslim agenda, such as Egyptian American provocateur Morris Sadek and Terry Jones, a Florida pastor notorious for publicly burning a Qur'an.

Petty criminal

And, acting as "consultant", was Steve Klein, a Vietnam veteran and founder of Courageous Christians United who is notorious for protests outside mosques and Mormon temples and who said he helped the moviemakers.

The film itself does not appear to have broken any US laws, but Nakoula may have breached the rules governing his conditional release from prison.

"The matter is under review," said a spokesperson for the Administrative Office of the US Courts.

This week saw Nakoula move from anonymous petty criminal to being a key figure in a global furore that has triggered mass protests in Muslim-majority countries in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere, and seen several US diplomatic missions attacked.

The US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in a well co-ordinated attack on Tuesday in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Reporters and police are camped out outside Nakoula's house in Cerritos outside Los Angeles. He gave an interview to Radio Sawa, a US-government station that broadcasts in Arabic.

Thuggish deviant

"I am the one who leaked the 14 minutes and put it on the internet and I am thinking about releasing the full film. Nobody manipulated my film," he said. The clip on YouTube was picked up by Egyptian television.

The film's depiction of Muhammad as a thuggish deviant offended many Muslims. The deadly anti-American protests have seen mobs burn US missions, schools and businesses.

According to Paul Audley, president of Film LA, which issues filming permits in Los Angeles, a group called Media for Christ was issued a one-day shooting license in August 2011 for a film with the working title Desert Warriors.

"I do know personally from having looked at it, before it was withdrawn, that the producer's name on it is Sam Bossil," he said in an interview.

Bossil is believed to be one of the pseudonyms used by Nakoula, who uploaded the clip as "Sam Bacile".

A man identifying himself as Sam Bacile gave interviews to US media this week in which he claimed to be an Israeli-American Jew who made the film to help Israel, but a consultant on the movie has since debunked this claim.

Read more on:    us  |  prophet protests  |  benghazi attack  |  religion

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