x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Convicted criminal behind anti-Islam film: US officials

The search for those behind the provocative, anti-Muslim film implicated in violent protests in the Middle East and North Africa has led to a California Coptic Christian convicted of financial crimes.

LOS ANGELES // Federal authorities have identified a California man once convicted of financial crimes as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film.

The US opened a criminal investigation into the deaths of the US ambassador to Libya and three other diplomats killed in Benghazi. It was not immediately clear whether authorities were focusing on the California filmmaker as part of that inquiry. But a federal law enforcement official said yesterday Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was the man behind, Innocence of Muslims, a film denigrating Islam.

Nakoula denied he directed the film and said he knew the filmmaker, Sam Bacile. Nakoula said that he was a Coptic Christian and said the film’s director supported the concerns of Christian Copts about their treatment by Muslims.

In 2001, Nakoula pleaded no contest to federal bank fraud charges in California.

The actors in the film issued a joint statement on Wednesday saying they were misled about the project. “The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” said the statement, obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved.”