APNewsBreak: US identifies anti-Muslim filmmaker

Associated Press Modified: September 14, 2012 at 12:31 am •  Published: September 14, 2012
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Prior to his bank fraud conviction, Nakoula struggled with a series of financial problems in recent years, according to California state tax and bankruptcy records. In June 2006, a $191,000 tax lien was filed against him in the Los Angeles County Recorder of Deeds office. In 1997, a $106,000 lien was filed against him in Orange County.

American actors and actresses who appeared in "Innocence of Muslims" issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they were misled about the project and alleged that some of their dialogue was crudely dubbed during post-production.

In the English-language version of the trailer, direct references to Muhammad appear to be the result of post-production changes to the movie. Either actors aren't seen when the name "Muhammad" is spoken in the overdubbed sound, or they appear to be mouthing something else as the name of the prophet is spoken.

"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer," said the statement, obtained by the Los Angeles Times. "We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."

One of the actresses, Cindy Lee Garcia, told KERO-TV in Bakersfield that the film was originally titled "Desert Warriors" and the script did not contain offensive references to Islam.

"When I found out this movie had caused all this havoc, I called Sam and asked him why, what happened, why did he do this? I said, 'Why did you do this to us, to me and to us?' And he said, 'Tell the world that it wasn't you that did it, it was me, the one who wrote the script, because I'm tired of the radical Muslims running around killing everyone,'" she said.

Garcia said the director, who called himself Sam Bacile, told her then that he was Egyptian.

The man identifying himself as Bacile told the AP he was an Israeli-born, 56-year-old Jewish writer and director. But a Christian activist involved in the film project, Steve Klein, told the AP on Wednesday that Bacile was a pseudonym and that the man was Christian. Klein had told the AP on Tuesday that the filmmaker was an Israeli Jew who was concerned for family members who live in Egypt.

About 15 key players from the Middle East — people from Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan and Iran, and a couple of Coptic Christians from Egypt — worked on the film, Klein said.

"Most of them won't tell me their real names because they're terrified," Klein said.

Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Los Angeles said Thursday that the church opposes the views expressed in the inflammatory movie, and, initially, none of his priests recognized Nakoula as a congregant. On Thursday morning, Nakoula called Serapion and said he had attended services at the church in Bellflower, Calif.

Serapion told the AP that Nakoula immediately claimed innocence on the phone call, saying there had been a mix-up with his name and he had no involvement with the movie.

"This is the first sentence he mentioned, that is 'I want to tell you I am not part of it,'" said Serapion.

Serapion told the AP he confirmed with the priest in Bellflower that Nakoula had once gone to the parish but hadn't been to services in a very long time.

Serapion said only "God knows" if Nakoula was truthful, but the holy man told Nakoula the filmmaker must take responsibility.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said Klein is a former Marine and longtime religious-right activist who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church. It described Klein as founder of Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.

Google Inc., which owns YouTube, pulled down the video Wednesday in Egypt, citing a legal complaint. It was still accessible in the U.S. and other countries.

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Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus, Shaya Tayefe Mohajer and Michael Blood in Los Angeles; Tamara Lush in Tampa, Fla.; and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.