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Nakoula Basseley Nakoula – AKA 'Sam Basile' – questioned in anti-Islam video (+video)

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has been questioned regarding the 'Innocence of Muslims' YouTube video that sparked violent protests around the world. But it's probation violations for earlier convictions on bank fraud and methamphetamine charges that could put him back behind bars.

By Staff writer / September 15, 2012

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is escorted from his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officers in Cerritos, Calif., Saturday. Nakoula, convicted of bank fraud, was to be interviewed about possible probation violations stemming from the making of an anti-Islam video that has triggered violent protests in the Muslim world.

Bret Hartman/REUTERS

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As protests over an anti-Islam film continue in a growing number of countries, the California man thought to be behind the video titled “Innocence of Muslims” has been taken in for questioning by federal authorities.

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Just after midnight Saturday morning – his face and head covered – a man identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was taken from his home in Cerritos, Calif., by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies for what law enforcement officials described as a “voluntary interview.”

As the story unfolds, more details about Mr. Nakoula have emerged pointing to his identity as the “Sam Basile” – note the similarity between “Basseley” and “Basile” – initially named as the film maker. Still, the events of the past few days – including false leads, apparent pseudonyms, and anonymous interviews – caution against drawing any conclusions about the 14-minute YouTube video and its origins.

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The video – presented as a trailer for a full-length film which may or may not exist – sparked violent protests in Muslim countries across North Africa and the Middle East, and it’s been tied to an apparently coordinated attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other embassy personnel were killed Tuesday.

The whole episode involving the badly produced and poorly acted film (which appears to include crude dubbing of dialogue denigrating the Prophet Mohammad) raises questions about freedom of speech, which alone could make any prosecution in the United States difficult.

But at this point in the unfolding saga, if Nakoula is to remain in custody at all it probably will be related to his breaking the rules of his probation on wholly unrelated charges.

Nakoula pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution, the Associated Press reports. He was also sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and was ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer. He served about a year in prison.

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