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Entries in Innocence of Muslims (6)

Friday
Oct052012

Lawyers Rally in Defense of Anti-Muslim Filmmaker

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There was little outcry when the maker of the inflammatory film that mocked the Prophet Mohammed was arrested in California for violating his probation.

The film had ignited anti-American sentiment around the world, left U.S. embassies and consulates on tense alert, and is blamed -- at least partially -- for the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Days after that attack, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, walked out of his Encitas, Calif., home with a cloth draped over his head, accompanied by federal probation agents.

But the arrest and continued detention without bail of Nakoula, the creator of Innocence of Muslims, has prompted a growing concern that the maker of the anti-Muslim film may be unfairly targeted for his inflammatory film.

"As someone who has had clients accused of violating conditions of probation, this is not standard operating procedure for these violations.  It is relatively rare to see people incarcerated in relatively minor violations," said George Washington University law professor John Turley.

"There were great suspicions raised by the speed and intensity of investigation of the filmmaker.  Many people viewed it as something of a pretext investigation," he said.  "It seemed obvious to many of us that the administration wanted a picture of this man being handcuffed and put in the back of a cruiser so it would play around the world and in the Arab street."

Nakoula had been convicted in 2010 of a bank fraud case, and according to charges later filled against him, had violated the probation from that case by using an alias, possibly going on the Internet, and lying to federal agents.

Nakoula allegedly initially told federal agents that he only wrote the script for the film before admitting to producing it.  He also used the alias "Sam Basile" when talking to actors and the media about the film, according to court documents.

He was remanded to jail without bail because of a "lengthy pattern of deception" for using fake identities and was deemed a flight risk who posed "some danger to the community," according to federal Judge Suzanne Segal.

Nakoula's attorneys have been directed by their client not to make statements to the media, saying they are formulating arguments to fight the charges, lawyer Chris Williams said.

Experts concede that the U.S. Department of Probation was within its rights to press charges against Nakoula if they have evidence he violated the terms of his probation.  And some dismiss suggestions that Nakoula is being treated unfairly.

"As prosecutors, we can't abuse the law," said Steven Jansen, COO of Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.  "We have to uphold it.  We have freedom of speech and all of that, so I don't believe that's their intent to go after him because of those areas."

But to some first amendment scholars and advocates, the arrest was a warning flag that Nakoula was possibly being targeted for the content of his free speech.

"We have first amendment protections for our right of free speech, but they are somewhat hollow rights if not protected by an independent judiciary to call government to account," said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center.

"That's what has to happen here.  The judge has to fairly evaluate whether this is a back door way to punish him for expressing an opinion that is unpopular in the country," Policinski said.

Segal has not yet set a date for a bond hearing for Nakoula, according to Williams.  Until that occurs, Nakoula will be held without bail.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep272012

Anti-Islam Filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula Arrested on Probation Violation, Detained Without Bail

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- The Southern California man who wrote and produced the controversial anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" was ordered detained without bail by a federal judge for allegedly violating the terms of his probation.

Citing a "lengthy pattern of deception," Judge Suzanne Segal said that the court had a "lack of trust" in Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and believed him to be a flight risk who posed "some danger to the community."

Nakoula, 55, appeared remotely via video conference at the U.S. District Court preliminary hearing in Los Angeles. He had been asked to report to an office of the U.S. Probation Office, where U.S. Marshals officially arrested him.

Authorities have been investigating whether he violated the terms of his supervised release from a 2010 conviction in a bank fraud case.

Nakoula had met with federal probation officers on Sept. 14 about whether his involvement in the film violated the terms of his probation, which barred him from accessing the Internet without prior approval and from using any name other than his legal name.

The inflammatory film has been blamed for violent protests across the Middle East, including in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans died, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, when militants attacked U.S. diplomatic facilities there on Sept. 11.

Nakoula admitted his role in the film and sought help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he had received since the film's release, saying he was "scared to death" about the safety of himself and his family, authorities told ABC News.

Nakoula had originally used the pseudonym Sam Bacile, telling reporters he was an "Israeli Jew" and that the film had cost about $5,000,000, which came from wealthy Jewish friends.

But Nakoula, who is actually an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian, later told authorities that he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie. He reportedly said the film cost between $50,000 and $60,000 and was shot in a little over 12 days. Authorities say he claimed the money for the movie came from his wife's family in Egypt.

Last week, Nakoula's family members fled their home to join the filmmaker in hiding. Nakoula has not returned to his Cerritos, Calif., home since being interviewed Sept. 14 by federal probation officers about his role in the creation of the film.

Shortly before 4 a.m. on Sept. 17, officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department escorted members of Nakoula's family, who had their faces covered, out of the house and into police vehicles so they could rejoin Nakoula at an undisclosed location.

"They decided they would be safer where they could move about and live a normal life," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Department. "All we did was pick them up and reunite them with Mr. Nakoula."

Whitmore said the family's current whereabouts are unknown to him, and it was his understanding that they won't ever return to their Cerritos house, though that decision was "entirely up to the family."

"What we do know and what they told me is that for the time now and for the immediate future, for the weeks and months to come, they will not be returning to this address," Whitmore said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep262012

"Innocence of Muslims" Actress Says She Forgives Filmmaker

ABC(NEW YORK) -- An actress who starred in the anti-Muslim film Innocence of Muslims said on ABC's The View Wednesday that she forgives filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula for allegedly duping her into participating in the film -- but she still plans to sue him.

"Of course I forgive him because God demands us to forgive," said Cindy Lee Garcia, in her first television interview since the release of the film sparked deadly protests around the globe.  "God will judge him."

But her attorney, who also appeared on The View, said he was suing the filmmaker for "putting words in [Garcia's] mouth."

The movie, which portrayed the prophet Muhammad as a fraud and a pedophile, sparked protests by angry Muslims around the world earlier this month after a 14-minute clip of the film was uploaded to YouTube and picked up by satellite television.  Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed during a protest sparked by the film in Benghazi, Libya.

Garcia said she had been told that Nakoula's name was Sam Bacile, and believed she was playing a role in an action movie called Desert Warriors. She was paid $500 for her part.

Garcia claimed that after the film was shot, the original dialogue was overdubbed to include criticism of Islam and Mohammed that had not appeared in the script.

"Sam Bacile as I knew him, the producer and writer, let us know he was so happy he wrote the film," she said Wednesday.  "He was constantly asking us how [we] liked it.  It was fun.  Never once was Muhammad or Muslim mentioned.  I never had any inkling that was what was going on."

"After I saw everything on the news I called him and said, 'Why did you do this to us?'" recounted Garcia.  "He said, 'Tell the world you're innocent,' that he did this, that he was tired of radical Muslims killing innocent people and that he was from Israel.  [Now] I don't believe anything he said."

Nakoula is actually an Egyptian-American and a Coptic Christian, and has convictions for fraud and drug manufacturing.

After the film clip was picked up by satellite television in the Middle East, Garcia and her castmates received death threats from angry Muslims.

"I'm coming out publicly because I don't want the Muslim world to think America is behind this, that I am behind this," she said.

Though Garcia now says she forgives Nakoula, earlier she had told ABC News that she was "hurt and really angry" with the makers of the film for allegedly lying to her and the cast.

Garcia noted that she is the pastor of a church and has reached out to Muslims to clarify that she had no idea the film was going to be offensive to another religion.

Garcia's attorney, Cris Armenta, also appeared on the show to explain why Garcia is suing the filmmaker and YouTube.  Garcia decided to take legal action to have the clip removed from the Internet because it violates her rights, Armenta said.

"It's been said that it's about First Amendment rights, but there is the First Amendment right to say what you think and also the First Amendment right to not say what you don't believe, and someone put words in her mouth to make her look like a religious bigot, and she's not," Armenta said.  "We believe we're going to be successful at that."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

White House Asks YouTube to ‘Review’ Anti-Muslim Movie

Stockbyte/Thinkstock/YouTube(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration has asked YouTube to review its posting of the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims,” which has provoked violent protests across the Middle East.

“We reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Carney was adamant Friday that the Obama administration will not apologize for the video.

“We have made clear that we find it offensive and reprehensible and disgusting,” Carney told reporters at the daily White House news briefing. “We have denounced it. We have said we find it offensive and reprehensible, but we will not -- you know, we cannot and will not squelch freedom of expression in this country.”

The White House has not asked YouTube to take down the video, simply to review it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep142012

Anti-Islam Film Producer Wrote Script in Prison: Authorities

JACK GUEZ/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- The controversial Innocence of Muslims was written, produced and directed by a convicted drug manufacturer and scam artist, who has told authorities he actually wrote the script in federal prison and began production two months after his June 2011 release from custody.

Authorities say Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, of Cerritos, Calif., admitted his role in the film, after seeking help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he has received since the release of the film. Excerpts from the film led to outrage and violence in the Arab world.

Authorities told ABC News that Nakoula told them he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie which, he reportedly said, cost between $50,000 and $60,000 and was shot in a little over 12 days.

Authorities say he claimed the money for the movie came from his wife's family in Egypt.

Using the false name Sam Basile, Nakoula had told reporters earlier this week that he was an "Israeli Jew," that the film had cost about $5,000,000, and that the money had come from wealthy Jewish friends.

Now he is "scared to death," authorities told ABC News, and fearful that harm could come to his wife and other family members. But most of the threats have been directed at him, authorities said.

According to California law enforcement officials the other members of the team that produced the movie are also fearful that harm could come to them. Authorities were seeking to talk to each of them.

Records obtained by ABC News show Nakoula was convicted of intent to manufacture methamphetamine in the 1990s, and also served time in federal prison on bank fraud charges, where he told authorities he wrote the script.

Sentenced to 21 months in prison and five years on probation, Nakoula was moved from the federal correctional complex in Lompoc, Calif. to a halfway house in 2010, according to the website The Smoking Gun. He was released from federal custody in June 2011 and production on the film began just two months later at a soundstage in Southern California.

Actors in the film say that they were told the film was called "Desert Warrior," and say that the script contained no references to Mohammed. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia told ABC News, "I never heard Mohammed, I never said Mohammed." Specific references to Mohammed and Islam were apparently added via overdubbing.

"I just want the world to know that I did not know," said Garcia.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Sep132012

Police Sent to California Home of "Innocence of Muslims" Producer

Thinkstock/Getty Images(CERRITOS, Calif.) -- As outrage over the anti-Muslim film Innocence of Muslims spreads across the Middle East, police were sent to the California home of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the film's producer, who according to authorities is frightened for his life.

Sheriff's Deputies were sent to the Cerritos, Calif., home of Nakoula, 55, on Thursday to protect him and his family, a senior law enforcement official told ABC News.  According to a sheriff, the police were at Nakoula's home overnight Thursday but have now left, as media reports identifying him as the man behind Innocence of Muslims, and listing his address, have circulated.

According to California law enforcement officials, Nakoula, who is also known to authorities as Bacily Nakoula, was frightened for his life and "scared of retaliation" against his family.

Sheriffs from the Cerritos police station were sent to his home to keep Nakoula safe and to provide a uniformed presence to assist the members from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, official reports said.

A senior official said that they also had sent local law enforcement officers to the production company Media for Christ on Hamilton Avenue in Duartes, Calif., to keep watch on the facility, which authorities said was affiliated with making the film that has been a trigger for anti-U.S. violence and protest in several countries.

On Thursday, protesters rushed the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, Yemen, while further demonstrations broke out outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.

Two days earlier, protesters in Cairo scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy and tore down the American flag in an angry demonstration against the film that depicts the founder of Islam as a fraud and a womanizer.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio