Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man believed to have made the controversial film,”Innocence of Muslims,” is a convicted felon and has reportedly turned himself in for police questioning in California.
An internet based trailer of the film mocks the Islamic prophet Muhammad, as a pedophile and womanizer among other accusations. It has sparked protests throughout several Muslim countries. It may or may not have contributed to the death of Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Initially, a man claiming to be named Sam Bacile, took credit for the movie. “Bacile” said he was Jewish, but it was later revealed that the movie was backed by right-wing Christian organizations. We quickly learned that his name was a pseudonym and it’s widely believed that Bacile is in fact, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55,and a member of an American group of an Egyptian-based Christian sect called “Coptic Christians.”
Nakoula had reportedly phoned his Bishop to tell him that he was not involved in the film, that there was a mix-up with his name, but one day before the alleged phone call, Nakoula said he managed logistics for the film.
In 2010, Nakoula was convicted of bank fraud for opening bank and credit card accounts under false names and Social Security numbers. He was released in 2011 with two of his parole conditions being that he was not allowed access to the internet nor was he allowed to assume a false identity. If in fact, he is the maker of the film, it appears that he has violated both those terms.
Nakoula is not currently under arrest and officials want to make it very clear that his first amendment rights are not being violated. From Reuters:
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.
It’s long been questioned whether the justice system should have the right to strip felons of their constitutional rights (such as the right to bear arms and the right to vote), but regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, it hasn’t yet been determined that internet access is a constitutional right.
It’s unknown what will happen to Nakoula if authorities conclude that he is the filmmaker. More from Reuters:
A telephone number said to belong to Bacile, given to Reuters by U.S.-based Coptic Christian activist Morris Sadek who said he had promoted the film, was later traced back to a person who shares the Nakoula residence.
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.
“Federal judges 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.
Nakoula was also convicted in 1997 for manufacturing of methamphetamine.
We will keep you updated as this story develops.