California man behind anti-Islam film headed for probation hearing

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES, Oct 10 (Reuters) - A California man behind ananti-Islam film that stoked violent protests in the Muslim worldwas due in court in Los Angeles on Wednesday for a hearing onwhether he violated his probation on a bank fraud conviction andshould be sent back to prison.

The Egyptian-born man, known publicly as Nakoula BasseleyNakoula, has been in federal custody since late last month andwas due to appear before a U.S. district court judge under hislegal name, Mark Basseley Youssef, court papers showed.

A crudely made 13-minute video attributed to Youssef wasfilmed in California and circulated online under several titlesincluding "Innocence of Muslims." It portrays the ProphetMohammad as a fool and a sexual deviant.

The clip sparked a torrent of anti-American unrest in Egypt,Libya and dozens of other Muslim countries last month. Theviolence coincided with an attack on U.S. diplomatic facilitiesin Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S.ambassador to Libya.

U.S. authorities, as outrage against the film mounted, saidthey were not investigating the film itself. But prosecutorshave said they could seek to have Youssef, 55, sent back toprison for up to two years if he is found to have violated hisprobation.

Under the terms of his release from prison last year,Youssef is barred from using aliases without the permission of aprobation officer and was restricted from accessing theInternet. He is facing eight possible probation violations,including the use of aliases, prosecutors said.

"It will be interesting to see what the judge does and whatthe reaction is around the world," said Stan Goldman, a LoyolaLaw School professor.

Goldman said attorneys for Youssef could argue the terms ofhis 2011 release from prison in the bank fraud case did notapply directly to his recent activities, in which peopleassociated with the film have said he misrepresented himself.

"It's not exactly like an armed robber on probation, gettingcaught with an automatic weapon in his possession. It's a littlemore technical," Goldman said.

Youssef was ordered held without bail last month following abrief hearing in which prosecutors accused him of violatingprobation, and he has since been held at a high-rise federaljail in downtown Los Angeles.

The defendant, who had worked in the gas station industryand most recently lived in a suburb of Los Angeles, declared atthe outset of his last hearing that he had changed his name toMark Basseley Youssef in 2002.

While previous court documents referred to him as NakoulaBasseley Nakoula, the latest court papers give his name asYoussef.

The probation issues were the latest of Youssef's legalwoes. An actress who says she was duped into appearing in theanti-Islam film has sued him over the matter, identifying him asthe film's producer. Cindy Lee Garcia also named YouTube and itsparent company Google Inc as defendants in the case.

Google has refused to remove the film from YouTube, despitepressure from the White House and others to take it down, thoughthe company has blocked the trailer in Egypt, Libya and otherMuslim countries.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)