Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Man behind 'Innocence of Muslims' denies violating his probation

Mark Basseley Youssef, the California man behind the inflammatory anti-Muslim film, made a court appearance Wednesday and denied having violated the terms of his probation.

By Greg RislingAssociated Press / October 10, 2012

This courtroom sketch shows Mark Basseley Youssef, (r.), talking with his attorney Steven Seiden in court on Sept. 27. Youssef, who was behind an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East, said Wednesday he did not violate his probation for a 2010 bank fraud conviction.

Mona Shafer Edwards/AP/File

Enlarge

Los Angeles

The California man behind the anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East denied Wednesday that he violated terms of his probation for a 2010 bank fraud conviction by using aliases and lying about his role in the movie.

Skip to next paragraph

Mark Basseley Youssef, 55, made a brief appearance in a courtroom packed with media and quietly repeated "deny" when all eight probation violation allegations were read by U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder, who scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Nov. 9.

None of the alleged violations have to do with the content of the movie or whether Youssef was the one who posted to YouTube the 14-minute trailer for "Innocence of Muslims," which depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, womanizer and pedophile. Federal authorities are seeking two years in prison for Youssef, who remains in custody and held without bail.

Youssef fled his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos and went into hiding when violence erupted in Egypt on Sept. 11. The violence spread, killing dozens, and enraged Muslims have demanded severe punishment for Youssef, with a Pakistani cabinet minister offering $100,000 to anyone who kills him.

"My client was not the cause of the violence in the Middle East," attorney Steven Seiden said after the hearing. "Clearly, it was pre-planned and it was just an excuse and a trigger point to have more violence."

The First Amendment offers broad protections for filmmaking and other forms of expression. Jody Armour, a professor at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law, said he is troubled that the government went after Youssef only after the movie caused outrage in the Middle East.

"They are saying we aren't going after him on the content, but the reason you are zeroing in on this other behavior is because he was somebody who published a film that caused a violent reaction in another part of the world," Armour said. "That's why there's almost this kind of a dog-whistle quality by this maneuver by the government."

Federal prosecutors did not comment after the hearing.

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer