The Californian man behind the anti-Islamic movie that has caused outrage across the Muslim world emerged from hiding this morning to be interviewed by federal probation officers.
With his face obscured behind a hat, glasses and a scarf, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55 was taken to a sheriff’s station in his hometown of Cerritos by deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department.
Convicted fraudster Nakoula is under investigation by probation officers to determine whether his inflammatory film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ has violated the terms of his release, which could land him back in prison.
After arriving at his home just after midnight deputies escorted Nakoula to an awaiting car and he was taken to the station where he was questioned over his involvement in the film production which has been blamed for the mass protests across the Middle East which resulted in the death of four American citizens on Wednesday.
Convicted of $800,000 worth of bank fraud in 2010, Nakoula, who is suspected of using the alias Sam Bassil during the production of the controversial film was released on the condition that he did not access the internet or use aliases.
Violent protests around the Arab world have sprung up because of the film, which portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a womaniser, buffon, ruthlesskiller and child molester and led to the death of seven people alone yesterday.
Nakoula voluntarily left his home in the early hours of Saturday morning for the meeting in a sheriff’s station Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
‘He will be interviewed by federal probation officers,’ said Whitmore.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo was attack by protesters yesterday and demonstrations against American consulates spread to Yemen on Thursday and on Friday to several other countries across the Middle East.
Nakoula, 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 showed.
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 summer.
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.
A 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.
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.
The 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.
The film sparked a violent protest at the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi during which the U.S. 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.
U.S. 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 laws.
Two attorneys visited Nakoula’s home hours before he was taken in for questioning. They said they were there to consult with him.
The violent protests over the film in Libya caused mob attacks in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American officials.