A California man linked to an anti-Islam film on YouTube that triggered violent Muslim protests was taken on Saturday to be questioned about possible probation violations.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was not allowed to access the Internet without approval of a probation officer as a condition of his release from prison in a 2010 bank fraud conviction.
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, he voluntarily left his home for the meeting in a sheriff’s station in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
“He will be interviewed by federal probation officers,” Whitmore said. He said Nakoula had not been placed under arrest but would not be returning home immediately. “He was never put in handcuffs … It was all voluntary.”
Nakoula, who has denied involvement in the low-budget film in a phone call to his Coptic Christian bishop, was ushered out of his home and into a waiting car by several sheriff’s deputies, his face shielded by a scarf, hat and sunglasses.
The crudely made 13-minute English-language film, filmed in California and circulated on the Internet under several titles including “Innocence of Muslims”, mocks the Prophet Mohammad.
The film helped spark a violent protest at the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi during which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed on Tuesday. U.S. officials say they believe militants used the protest as cover to carry out an armed assault on the diplomatic compound and a building that was supposed to be a safe house.
Protests have spread to other countries across the Muslim world.
For many Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is blasphemous. Caricatures deemed insulting in the past have provoked protests and drawn condemnations from officials, preachers, ordinary Muslims and many Christians.
U.S. officials have said authorities were not investigating the film project itself, and that even if it was inflammatory or led to violence, simply producing it cannot be considered a crime in the United States, which has strong free speech laws.
Two attorneys visited Nakoula’s home hours before he was taken in for questioning. They said they were there to consult with him.