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Fri September 28, 2012
'Innocence Of Muslims' Filmmaker Arrested
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Federal authorities in Southern California have arrested the man who produced the now infamous anti-Islam video, the one that recently sparked unrest in many Muslim countries. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested for violating his probation from a previous bank fraud conviction. The judge at his hearing this afternoon denied Mr. Nakoula bail, calling him a flight risk, that's according to news agency reports. We now go to NPR West, and we're joined by NPR's Carrie Kahn, who has the latest on Nakoula's arrest.
And, Carrie, it's been more than two weeks since Mr. Nakoula was tied to the online video titled "Innocence of Muslims." Are authorities there linking the timing of his arrest to the worldwide uproar over that video?
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Well, if they are, Robert, federal authorities aren't saying. They've arrested Mr. Nakoula for violating his probation order. You know, they brought him in to - for questioning earlier this month. They took him from his house here in Southern California in the middle of the night. He was later released, and he says he's been in hiding since then. That's about all we know right now.
SIEGEL: What was the condition of his probation that he allegedly violated?
KAHN: Right. Well, according to his probation commitment order, which was back in June of 2010, it clearly spelled out what he could do or, really, what he could not do with computers and especially the Internet. And the document clearly states that he can only use computers for work. He can only use the Internet with written approval of his probation officer. And it also clearly states that he cannot have anyone else access the Internet on his behalf. And that 14-minute video clip that was uploaded to YouTube was done by a user by the name of Sam Bacile.
Nakoula was convicted of one count of bank fraud. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison. It was a very elaborate scheme of opening credit cards and using false names and withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars. In the end, he was ordered to pay more than - nearly $800,000.
SIEGEL: Now, his probation officer stated that he couldn't use any aliases or false names. Didn't he originally say that he was Sam Bacile and that he was an Israeli-American living in California selling real estate? How did it actually become known that he was Nakoula?
KAHN: Right. That was the name that he did use. What he did was he called two news outlets using that name, and he took credit for the anti-Islam video. But soon after it, it became very clear, once reporters started looking into that name, there was absolutely no California records of any Sam Bacile. And it was - he called the Associated Press. That was one of the agencies that received his call. And they actually traced his cell phone number back to this home in Southern California, the home of Mr. Nakoula.
He - they confronted him. He actually admitted to helping with the film, but he, at first, denied making it. But actors in the film have since come forward and they've identified him as the man they knew as Sam Bacile.
SIEGEL: Carrie, apart from his old bank fraud conviction, what else do we know about this man?
KAHN: He is originally from Egypt, and he's a Coptic Christian. He was also convicted on state drug charges in the 1990s. He's been linked to other anti-Islam critics here in Southern California. The most vocal is a man well known here named Steven Klein. He's been known for picketing mosques and handing out anti-Muslim pamphlets at area high schools. And Klein said early on that he was a script consultant on the movie and knew Mr. Bacile and Mr. Nakoula now.
SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Carrie.
KAHN: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting on Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. He's the man behind the inflammatory anti-Islam video. Today, he was held without bond for violating his probation on a past bank fraud conviction. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.