LOS ANGELES // The man suspected of producing a crude film lampooning the Prophet Mohammed has been placed under police protection after protests erupted around the world, a force spokesman said yesterday.
Journalists gathered outside the home of a 55-year-old Coptic Christian, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, in the city's southern suburbs, after reports he had directed the movie that triggered protests in the Muslim world.
There was no sign at the house of Nakoula, who is thought to have uploaded a trailer for the movie to the YouTube video-sharing site under the pseudonym "Sam Bacile," but police said he had asked for protection.
"We did receive the call and we did respond. We're providing public safety and we will continue to do so," said Steve Whitman, a spokesman for the county sheriff in Cerritos, 40 kilometres south of Los Angeles.
Little is known about Nakoula, who was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2010 for bank fraud. His family refused to speak to reporters at his home.
If he is the figure who has been posing as Sam Bacile, then he told two US media outlets that he was Israeli-American and Jewish, but an associate has now confirmed that he is a Christian American and not Israeli.
A 14-minute package of excerpts from the movie he is thought to have produced, Innocence of Muslims, was uploaded onto the Internet in July. In it, an actor playing Mohammed is portrayed as a drunken and predatory bisexual.
The film is marked by amateur acting, laughable fake beards and shoddy production values was apparently shot in English, but a version of the trailer was dubbed into Egyptian Arabic and caused great offense in the Arab world.
Egyptian Islamist television networks broadcast the clip, triggering a riot in which a mob stormed the grounds of the American embassy and tore down the US flag. Similar unrest erupted in Yemen on Thursday.
An attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, was at first thought to be linked to the protests, but investigators now suspect an extremist plot.
Actors who appeared in the film have come forward to denounce "Bacile", alleging they were misled about the content and that references to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed were dubbed over their voices in post production.