Man behind anti-Islam film to return to jail for year

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The film stoked protests against the United States across the Muslim world (Getty Images).

The film stoked protests against the United States across the Muslim world (Getty Images).

The convicted California scam artist behind a crude anti-Islam film that stoked protests against the United States across the Muslim world was sent back to jail for a year on Wednesday over probation violations stemming from his role in the video.

In a tightly guarded federal courtroom in Los Angeles, Mark Basseley Youssef admitted to using aliases and lying to his probation officer, breaching the terms of his supervised release from prison this year after serving time for bank fraud.

Youssef, an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian and former gasoline station owner identified in some public records by his birth name, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, has been in protective custody since his arrest in September, his lawyer said.

At least one violation Youssef acknowledged involved his using the alias Sam Bacile, a name several actors and others from the film said he had used in producing the Internet video. It was circulated under several titles, including 'Innocence of Muslims'.

In addition to a year in jail, US District Judge Christina Snyder ordered Youssef placed on four years of supervised release once he got out.

The 13-minute clip attributed to Youssef, 55, portrays the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as a fool and a sexual deviant, although cast members have said they were duped into appearing in a film they believed was an adventure drama called 'Desert Warrior'.

After the fact, actors said they learned that some of their lines spoken in the production had been dubbed over.

At least one actress has sued Youssef, claiming her image and reputation were harmed and her safety was put in jeopardy, citing a religious edict she said an Egyptian cleric had issued against anyone connected with the movie.

Assistant US Attorney Robert Dugdale said some cast members have received death threats and feared for their lives.

The film touched off a torrent of anti-American unrest in Arab and Muslim countries. The start of the violence on September 11 coincided with an attack on US diplomatic facilities in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya.

US and other foreign embassies were also stormed in various cities across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. For many Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is considered blasphemous.

Defence lawyer Steven Seiden told reporters after Wednesday's hearing that the government was using its probation case to punish Youssef for making the film, thus chilling his client's constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

"This hearing had everything to do with the movie," he said.

Dugdale said in court that Youssef was not being prosecuted for the content of his film but because "the way he made this movie, he did defraud people," in part by operating under an assumed identity.

Youssef appeared in court in a white jumpsuit, his hands shackled to his waist. He said little, and an Arabic translator was used to communicate with him.

While in protective custody since his arrest, Youssef has remained essentially isolated and unable to see his relatives, except for brief glimpses he can catch in courtrooms, Seiden said.

The defence lawyer also told reporters his client wrote the script for the video and may have served as a "cultural consultant" on the video, but does not own rights to it.

Youssef previously was convicted of fraudulently obtaining 641 credit and debit cards and 60 bank accounts, defrauding banks of US$800,000, Dugdale said.

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Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: ahmed

cast members were duped? come on....do film members act without any signed contracts and not knowing what their role and the movie is all about...???? quite hard to beleive really.

Posted by: Kevin

Their voices were dubbed at most parts and the way they were acting were as if it were for a different script altogether, but edited very amateurishly.

Posted by: Abdul hafeez Sheikh

Such people like Yousaf are very common and try to become Famous by Doing such bad things . All Muslims in the world should ask for the common Law against Defaming any religion should be declared a crime against Humanity and peace as such events create hatred among People . Every body belonging to any religion in the world must realize that People of any faith who are in majority in one country , thier faith brothers are minority in other countries and by doing such bad things , one puts the people of faith in minority in danger , as the anger always travel towards weak section of society

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