An Egyptian-American man behind an anti-Islam film that has stoked violent protests across the Muslim world was arrested on Thursday in California for allegedly violating his probation, and a federal judge ordered him jailed without bond.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was taken into custody at an undisclosed location by US marshals and brought to court in Los Angeles still wearing his street clothes, but handcuffed and shackled at the waist.
Nakoula has been under investigation by probation officials looking into whether he violated the terms of his 2011 release from prison on a bank fraud conviction while making the film, though authorities have said they were not probing the movie itself.
“The court has a lack of trust in the defendant at this time,” US Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal said in refusing Nakoula’s request for bail at a hearing in a US District Court.
Nakoula, under the terms of his release from jail, has been barred from accessing the Internet or using aliases without the permission of a probation officer, court records show. He now faces eight probation violation accusations.
In denying his request for bail, Segal called him a flight risk and said the Coptic Christian filmmaker, who most recently lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, had “engaged in a lengthy pattern of deception,” including using several aliases.
Nakoula has stayed out of the public eye for much of the past two weeks, amid outrage over the film.
A lawyer for Nakoula expressed concern in court on Thursday for his client’s safety and asked that the hearing be closed to the media. Defence attorney Steve Seiden argued unsuccessfully that he had stayed in touch with probation officials even while in hiding.
“It’s a danger for him to be in custody at Metropolitan Detention Center due to the large Muslim population there,” Seiden said, referring to the federal jail in downtown Los Angeles where Nakoula would likely be housed.
But prosecutors said Nakoula, who could be sent back to prison for up to two years if he is found to have violated the terms of his release, had been dishonest with the court, even about his name.
“Most specifically, he did not accurately present himself as who he was to the people he cast in the film,” said Assistant US Attorney Robert Dugdale, adding that in his view Nakoula would be safer behind bars.
Hackers disrupt websites of US banks over anti-Islam film
A hacker group based in the Middle East has flaunted its online muscle against several of America’s largest financial firms, temporarily keeping customers from accessing their information on banking websites and promising similar shut downs again next week. The group — identifying itself as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters — claiming responsibility said the attacks are linked to the anti-Islam film.