NEW: Youssef's film had "nothing to do with" Benghazi, which was "pre-planned," his lawyer says
The filmmaker denies prosecutors' eight allegations that he violated probation
Youssef is behind the film that provoked protests in Muslim world
Congress holds a hearing on security at the Benghazi, Libya, consulate
The Egyptian-American man behind the inflammatory film “Innocence of Muslims” denied Wednesday violating the terms of his probation from a 2010 bank fraud conviction.
Mark Basseley Youssef made the denial in a federal courtroom during a proceeding in which prosecutors are seeking to revoke the probation.
The amateur filmmaker from Cerritos, California, denied each of the eight instances in which prosecutors alleged he violated his supervised release from federal custody. He is now being held without bail.
An evidentiary hearing on the charges will be held November 9.
The filmmaker was identified in initial news accounts last month as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the name used in the bank fraud case.
But the probation revocation case lists the defendant as Mark Basseley Youssef, which the filmmaker stated in court last month is his legal name.
The use of aliases is among the allegations that the prosecutors are citing in their case to revoke Youssef’s probation and return him to prison for two years.
Specifically, prosecutors are accusing Youssef of using a name other than his legal one in December 2010; possessing a driver’s license under the Nakoula name; possessing a fraudulent driver’s license; using the name Sam Bacile on August 7, 2011, the name he allegedly used in making the controversial film; and falsely telling his probation officer last month that he hadn’t used the Bacile name.
Youssef is also accused of falsely telling his probation officers on September 15 that his role in the film was limited solely as the writer.
Youssef garnered international attention following protests against his film throughout the Muslim world.
His film was initially implicated in the violent demonstration last month in Libya that left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead last month.
U.S. officials initially said the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and a nearby U.S. annex came as protesters outside the consulate rallied against the online video that offensively portrays Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.
That explanation has shifted with time.
The Obama administration now says the incident was a terrorist attack, occurring 11 years to the day after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
After Wednesday’s court hearing, Youssef’s attorney told reporters that his client “had nothing to do with the violence that occurred in the Middle East as a result of the film.
“Clearly it was pre-planned,” attorney Steve Seiden said about the Benghazi incident.
The defendant is a Coptic Christian, a religious minority in Egypt where Copt-Muslim relations are tense, authorities say. His film, backed by hard-core anti-Islam groups in the United States, is a low-budget project that was largely ignored when trailers were posted on YouTube in English last June.
But protests erupted in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories when an Arabic translation of the trailer was released a few weeks before the anniversary of September 11. A Chechen court ruled the film to be extremist and banned it in the Russian republic, according to information minister Murat Tagiyev.
The amateurish film portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, buffoon, ruthless killer and child molester. Islam categorically forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is an incendiary taboo in the Muslim world.
When news of his movie first broke, the filmmaker identified himself as Sam Bacile and told The Wall Street Journal he was a 52-year-old Israeli-American real estate developer from California. He said Jewish donors had financed his film.
But Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there was no record of a Sam Bacile with Israeli citizenship.
A production staff member who worked on the film in its initial stages told CNN that a different name was filed on the paperwork for the Screen Actors Guild: Abenob Nakoula Bassely. A public records search showed an Abanob B. Nakoula residing at the same address as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
Another staffer who worked on the film said he knew the producer as Sam Bassil. That’s how he signed a personal check to pay staff.
In the bank fraud conviction, Youssef served one year in federal prison at Lompoc, California, but officials couldn’t say recently whether he paid any of the court-ordered restitution of $794,700, according to probation department officials and court records.
While on probation, Youssef was also prohibited from accessing computers or any device that can access the Internet without approval from his probation officer.
Meanwhile, the U.S. House Oversight Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the administration’s handling of the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy rebutted criticism by Republicans of an alleged lack of preparedness ahead of the consulate attack and a shifting response by the Obama administration following the assault.
“We regularly assess risk and resource allocation, a process involving the considered judgments of experienced professionals on the ground and in Washington, using the best available information,” Kennedy told the Republican-controlled committee.
The assault on the U.S. compound was “an unprecedented attack by dozens of heavily armed men,” Kennedy said.