Video-maker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula questioned in probation probe


Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, one of the people behind a crude video that has set off a storm of protests across the Middle East, has been taken by Los Angeles police for questioning over whether he violated the terms of his probation.

Shortly after midnight, “Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies escorted a man believed to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula to an awaiting car,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The man declined to answer questions on his way out and wore a hat and a towel over his face.”

A sheriff’s office spokesman Steve Whitmore “told the (LA )Times that Nakoula was taken in for a voluntary interview with probation officials and has not been arrested or detained”

Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in prison in 2010 for federal bank fraud.

Reports Friday indicated that Nakoula was also a federal informant. He appeared to receive reduced sentences on several earlier drug and fraud related convictions.

A defense attorney arguing for a shorter sentence for Nakoula in the 2010 bank fraud case told the court that the defendant’s cooperation should be taken into consideration. “He’s undergone extensive debriefings. … He has implicated [Eiad] Salamey.”

“I decided to cooperate with the government to retrieve some of these mistakes or damage,” Nakoula told the judge, according to the court transcript obtained by The Smoking Gun. “I want to cooperate with the government that they can catch with this other criminals who is their involvement.”

The video’s provenance is still somewhat murky. It appeared to involve an assortment of anti-Islamic Christian extremists, con artists, and, this being LA, a down-on-his-luck, sometimes soft porn film director and several actors who say they were duped about the video’s subject matter.

A consultant on the film, anti-Islam activist Steve Klein, claimed in one interview that Nakoula wrote the script for the project while in prison. But Klein’s and Nakoula’s stories have changed several times in recent days. Nakoula, of Egyptian Coptic background, initially–falsely–posed as an Israeli real estate tycoon named “Sam Bacile” in interviews with the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal.

A Christian media outlet, Media for Christ, took out the license to produce the film, Desert Warriors, that was adapted into the anti-Islam video, “Innocence of Muslims.” Media for Christ’s president, Joseph Nasrallah Abdelmasih, and Nakoula are of Egyptian Copt background. Klein has a weekly program on the Way TV, which is also headed by Abdelmasih. Media for Christ did not return a message from Al-Monitor.

Gawker also reported Friday that a professional film director/editor involved in the video project, Alan Roberts, aka Robert Brownell, has previously directed several soft-core porn productions.

To date, the facts “established by Nakoula’s own admission [are] that a convicted drug-dealing con man helped set in motion events that resulted in the death of people who were champions against religious intolerance,” The Daily Beast reported.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama on Friday spoke at the solemn return of remains ceremony for US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three US diplomatic staff killed in Benghazi, Libya this week.

“We will bring to justice those who took them from us,” President Obama vowed at the ceremony.

Update: Courageous Christians United, a group founded by Steve Klein, announced that it has removed Klein from the board, effective September 14, 2012, as a result of his involvement in the film, which it denounced.

“We find this film reprehensible and irresponsible, and serving primarily to provoke a violent response,” Rob Sivulka, President of Courageous Christians United, said in a statement posted to the group’s website.

(Top Photo: L.A. County Sheriff deputies take a man believed to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, in for interviewing early Saturday. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; Secoond photo at right: anti-Islam activists Media of Christ president Joseph Nasrallah Abdelmasseh and Pamela Gellar, from the Anti-Defamation League.)