LOS ANGELES - A California man behind an anti-Islam film that
stoked violent protests in the Muslim world was due in court in Los Angeles on
Wednesday for a hearing on whether he violated his probation on a bank fraud
conviction and should be sent back to prison.
The Egyptian-born man,
known publicly as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, has been in federal custody since
late last month and was due to appear before a US district court judge under
his legal name, Mark Basseley Youssef, court papers showed.
made 13-minute video attributed to Youssef was filmed in California and
circulated online under several titles including "Innocence of Muslims." It
portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and a sexual deviant.
sparked a torrent of anti-American unrest in Egypt, Libya and dozens of other
Muslim countries last month. The violence coincided with an attack on US
diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US
ambassador to Libya.
US authorities, as outrage against the film
mounted, said they were not investigating the film itself. But prosecutors have
said they could seek to have Youssef, 55, sent back to prison for up to two
years if he is found to have violated his probation.
Under the terms of
his release from prison last year, Youssef is barred from using aliases without
the permission of a probation officer and was restricted from accessing the
Internet. He is facing eight possible probation violations, including the use of
aliases, prosecutors said.
"It will be interesting to see what the judge
does and what the reaction is around the world," said Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law
Goldman said attorneys for Youssef could argue the
terms of his 2011 release from prison in the bank fraud case did not apply
directly to his recent activities, in which people associated with the film have
said he misrepresented himself.
"It's not exactly like an armed robber on
probation, getting caught with an automatic weapon in his possession. It's a
little more technical," Goldman said.
Youssef was ordered held without
bail last month following a brief hearing in which prosecutors accused him of
violating probation, and he has since been held at a high-rise federal jail in
downtown Los Angeles.
The defendant, who had worked in the gas station
industry and most recently lived in a suburb of Los Angeles, declared at the
outset of his last hearing that he had changed his name to Mark Basseley Youssef
While previous court documents referred to him as Nakoula
Basseley Nakoula, the latest court papers give his name as Youssef.
probation issues were the latest of Youssef's legal woes. An actress who says
she was duped into appearing in the anti-Islam film has sued him over the
matter, identifying him as the film's producer. Cindy Lee Garcia also named
YouTube and its parent company Google Inc as defendants in the
Google has refused to remove the film from YouTube, despite
pressure from the White House and others to take it down, though the company has
blocked the trailer in Egypt, Libya and other Muslim countries.