- (Photo: Reuters/Fayaz Aziz)
The creator and promoter behind the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" short film that sparked riots in the Middle East last year will be released from federal custody in Southern California on Thursday for charges unrelated to the film.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who is listed in court documents as Mark Basseley Youssef, will be released from a halfway house in Southern California on Thursday after serving a year for violating his parole for previous bank fraud charges. In November 2012, he pleaded guilty to, among other things, using an alias in violation of his parole agreement. Basseley used the alias "Sam Bacile" while promoting the "Innocence of Muslims" short film in September 2012.
Basseley was the California-based promoter behind the highly controversial short film "Innocence of Muslims" that was dubbed in Arabic and posted to YouTube in September 2012. The film reportedly mocked the prophet Mohammed, causing riots to break out in the Middle East that resulted in numerous deaths and casualties as protesters attacked U.S. Embassies in countries such as Egypt and Yemen. The film was also initially blamed for the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, although that was later confirmed to be an unrelated, carefully planned terrorist attack on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. soil.
In addition to being written and produced by Nakoula, the film was also promoted by controversial pastor Terry Jones of the small-time church Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.
Jones has also caused riots in the Middle East for his annual Quran burning ceremony on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks that he does as a form of protest against the Islamic religion. Jones had planned to burn nearly 3,000 Qurans this September, but was arrested by Polk County police in Florida before he was able to do so.
Basseley, a 56-year-old Coptic Christian born in Egypt, said in a June interview with Fox News that he planned on completing his controversial anti-Muslim film after being released from prison. He told the news outlet that the purpose of his film was not to insult Islam but rather to fight terrorism, adding that he is proud of his film and would create it again if he had the opportunity. Basseley moved to the United States in 1984.
"Of course I'm proud of it. If I could go back, I would do it again," Nakoula said at the time. "Everybody gets hurt in this culture. We need the world free of this culture. We have to fight it."