Nakoula Basseley Nakoula 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LOS ANGELES - A California man convicted of bank fraud was taken in for
questioning on Saturday by officers investigating possible probation
violations stemming from the making of an anti-Islam film that triggered violent protests in the Muslim world.
Basseley Nakoula, 55, voluntarily left his home in the early hours of
Saturday morning for the meeting in a sheriff's station in the Los
Angeles suburb of Cerritos, Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve
"He will be interviewed by federal probation
officers," Whitmore said. He said Nakoula had not been placed under
arrest but would not be returning home immediately. "He was never put in
handcuffs... It was all voluntary."
Nakoula, who has denied
involvement in the film in a phone call to his Coptic Christian bishop,
was ushered out of his home and into a waiting car by several sheriff's
deputies, his face shielded by a scarf, hat and sunglasses.
crudely made 13-minute English-language film, filmed in California and
circulated on the Internet under several titles including Innocence of Muslims
, mocks the Prophet Mohammad.
film sparked a violent protest at the US consulate in the Libyan city
of Benghazi during which the US ambassador and three other Americans
were killed on Tuesday. Protests have spread to other countries across
the Muslim world.
For many Muslims, any depiction of the prophet
is blasphemous. Caricatures deemed insulting in the past have provoked
protests and drawn condemnations from officials, preachers, ordinary
Muslims and many Christians.
US officials have said authorities
were not investigating the film project itself, and that even if it was
inflammatory or led to violence, simply producing it cannot be
considered a crime in the United States, which has strong free speech
Two attorneys visited Nakoula's home hours before he was
taken in for questioning. They said they were there to consult with him.
Nakoula served time for bank fraud
whose name has been widely linked to the film in media reports, pleaded
guilty to bank fraud in 2010 and was sentenced to 21 months in prison,
to be followed by five years on supervised probation, court documents
He was accused of fraudulently opening bank and credit
card accounts using Social Security numbers that did not match the names
on the applications, a criminal complaint showed. He was released in
June 2011, and at least some production on the video was done later that
But the terms of Nakoula's prison release contain
behavior stipulations that bar him from accessing the Internet or
assuming aliases without the approval of his probation officer.
senior law enforcement official in Washington has indicated the
probation investigation relates to whether he broke one or both of these
conditions. Violations could result in him being sent back to prison,
court records show.
Clips of the film posted on the Internet
since July have been attributed to a man by the name of Sam Bacile,
which two people linked to the film have said was likely an alias.
telephone number said to belong to Bacile, given to Reuters by
US-based Coptic Christian activist Morris Sadek who said he had
promoted the film, was later traced back to a person who shares the
Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law School professor,
said whether Nakoula is sent back to jail over potential probation
violations linked to the film, such as accessing the Internet, was a
subjective decision up to an individual judge.
are gods in their own courtrooms, it varies so much in who they are," he
said, noting such a move would be based on his conduct not on the
content of the film.
As well as the fraud conviction, Nakoula
also pleaded guilty in 1997 to possession with intent to manufacture
methamphetamine and was sentenced to a year in jail, said Sandi Gibbons,
a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.