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Filmmaker denies sparking Muslim violence

11 October 2012, 10:37

Los Angeles - A lawyer for the man behind the Innocence of Muslims video denied on Wednesday that his client was to blame for a wave of violence across the Middle East, as he appeared in court for a second time.

Attorney Steven Seiden said US congressional hearings in Washington would shed more light on the cause of the unrest that killed a number of people, including the US ambassador to Libya.

"My client was not the cause of the violence in the Middle East. Clearly it was pre-planned, that was just an excuse and a trigger point," said the lawyer for Mark Basseley Youssef, aged 55.

"As you know, there [are] congressional hearings going on now as to the source of the real violence in the Middle East," he said after the brief court hearing in Los Angeles.

When the violence erupted, "the press, the president, secretary of state were blaming my client for the violence in the Mideast, and then a week later we learned that it was all pre-planned attacks to coincide with 9/11".

"We'll see what they come up with, and we'll see how that impacts his case," he added in reference to Congress.

Mark Basseley Youssef - previously listed as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula - was handcuffed, shackled at the waist and clad in a white jumpsuit, meaning he is under protective custody at a detention centre next to the downtown LA courthouse.

The amateurish film depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a thuggish deviant offended many Muslims, and sparked a wave of anti-US protests in a number of countries that cost several lives and saw mobs set US missions, schools and businesses ablaze.

On 11 September, the anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

Initially, US officials said that attack followed spontaneous protests against the anti-Islam film, which were occurring in other countries in the region.

But this week, US administration officials gave a detailed account of the assault, in which dozens of armed men invaded the consulate setting it on fire and hunting down staff.

At a hearing in Washington on Wednesday, US lawmakers were told that the consulate in Benghazi was a sitting target with weak security as requests for extra staffing were denied despite a rising al-Qaeda threat.

Tight security in court

Youssef was arrested last month for eight breaches of his probation for a 2010 bank fraud conviction, and attended a preliminary probation-revocation hearing on Wednesday before US District Judge Christina Snyder.

In February 2009, a federal indictment accused Youssef and others of fraudulently obtaining the identities and Social Security numbers of customers at several Wells Fargo branches in California and withdrawing $860 from them.

At Wednesday's hearing, held amid tight security in an almost empty court - media were allowed to watch events by video conference from a separate building - the judge read the eight probation violation charges against him.

Youssef, a balding Middle Eastern-looking man with glasses perched on his head, said the single word "deny" to each of the accusations. He was mostly shielded from camera view by his lawyer.

He was ordered kept in custody, and a new hearing was set for 9 November.

"We've denied all the accusations today, a hearing date has been set, and we'll let the matter work itself out in court," said the lawyer afterwards.


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