US police quiz anti-Islam video suspect

Suspected filmmaker is questioned by authorities after widespread protests over video rocked Muslim world.

The man suspected of directing a provacative anti-Islam movie has been questioned by US probation officers, as violent protests – which the trailer of the film had triggered across the Muslim world – eased considerably.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was convicted of bank fraud in 2010 but was later released on condition that he did not access the internet or use aliases. 

Police are investigating whether Nakoula violated terms of his probation by accessing the internet. The objectionable video caused mayhem only after being posted online.

Nakoula on Wednesday told the AP news agency that he was logistics manager for the film.

The trailer triggered protests across the Muslim world with Western embassies being targeted in North Africa and the Middle East. The US ambassador to Libya and three other staff were killed in an attack on the US consulate in the city of Benghazi on Tuesday, and then the violence peaked after Friday prayers.

The US has sent troops to protect its diplomatic presence in Libya and Yemen, while drawing up plans for Sudan.

However Sudan has rejected the US request to send marines to improve security at the Khartoum embassy, while on Saturday the Yemeni parliament said it had also rejected the presence of US Marines in Sanaa.

Objections by the Sudanese government has held up the security mission of an elite Marine team that the US planned to send to Khartoum, a US official said on Saturday.

As a result, the deployment has been delayed and possibly curtailed, according to the official.

In relation to Yemen, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters on Friday the United States has deployed a Marine anti-terrorism unit to Sanaa to help protect the American embassy in the face of angry demonstrations.

At least 10 people died in the violent protests on Friday.

Tunisia’s interior ministry have said they will punish all those involved in Friday’s US embassy attack, as police  hunted the leader of a hardline jihadist group.

“Anyone closely or marginally involved in the events outside the American embassy in Tunis will be punished,” national security spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said in an interview.

An attack on a NATO base in Afghanistan on Saturday that killed two US marines was also carried out in response to the video, the Taliban have said.

 Al Jazeera analyses the reaction a day after the protests

About 500 protesters gathered outside the US consulate in the Australian city of Sydney on Saturday, hurling bottles and shoes.

Police pushed back the crowd, provoking anger among some of the protesters, many of whom had brought their children with them.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the four US officials killed in Benghazi were repatriated on Friday in a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base attended by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In Libya, authorities said they had made four arrests in the investigation into the attack, and the Libyan president told Al Jazeera the assault was pre-planned.

‘Given a ride’

Nakoula was “given a ride” by sheriff’s deputies from his Cerritos, California, home shortly after midnight to the interview, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Don Walker told the AFP news agency.

A local NBC News affiliate reported that the man later emerged from the station wearing a coat, hat, scarf and glasses.

Al Jazeera’s Tom Ackerman, reporting from Washington, said, “Authorities questioned him under federal courts. They wanted him to clarify whether he put the film online, which goes against his probation rules of using the internet.”

There was no word what conclusion, if any, the probation office had reached during the interview.

In February 2009, a federal indictment accused Nakoula and others of fraudulently obtaining the identities and Social Security numbers of customers at several Wells Fargo branches in California and withdrawing $860 from them.

Given the relatively small amount of money involved, he was put on probation as a result.

Nakoula had agreed to the interview prior to the deputies arriving at his home, and the move was “entirely voluntary”, NBC News reported.

‘Sam Bacile’

It is unclear whether Nakoula actually directed the 14-minute online trailer “Innocence of Muslims”, which has been widely circulated on the internet in English and dubbed in Arabic.

The original posting for the trailer on YouTube came from an account linked to the name ‘sambacile’.

No film-maker by the name of Sam Bacile has been traced, and the US authorities suspect Nakoula of using the pseudonym. Nakoula, however, has reportedly denied having used the alias.

Any portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad is considered blasphemous by Muslims, and the film depicts him as a foolish, power-hungry man.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the anti-Islamic film, stressing that the US government had nothing to do with it.

“To us, to me, personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage,” Clinton said, calling on all government and religious leaders to draw the line at violence.

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheik Abdel-Aziz al-Sheik on Saturday said Muslims should “denounce it without anger”.

“Muslims should not be dragged by wrath and anger to shift from legitimate to forbidden action and by this, they will, unknowingly, fulfil some aims of the film,” the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies