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'Innocence of Muslims': Egypt issues arrest warrants

September 18, 2012 |  8:07 am
Egypt's general prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor and referred them to trial on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that has sparked riots across the Muslim world.

The prosecutor's office says the seven men and one woman, all of whom are believed to be outside of Egypt, are charged with harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information. The office says they could face the death penalty.

A statement from the prosecutor on Tuesday says Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Copt living in Southern California and believed to be behind the film, is among those charged. So is Florida-based Pastor Terry Jones, who has said he was contacted by the filmmaker to promote the video. The names of the others listed in the warrants were not immediately available.

PHOTOS: Protests over anti-Islam film spread

Nakoula, who lives in Cerritos, has denied involvement with the film to his bishop. Authorities said he and his family are in hiding at an undisclosed location. Nakoula was questioned by federal probation officials early Saturday morning and escorted from his home to a "voluntary" interview. 

Another associate of the film, Joseph Nassralla, issued a statement posted on the website of anti-Muslim blogger and activist Pamela Geller.

Nassralla is the president of Media for Christ, which is the name of the organization that filed the film permit. He said he offered the charity's broadcast studio for 10 days of filming but had nothing further to do with the movie, which depicted the prophet Muhammad as a buffoon and sexual deviant. The low-budget anti-Islam film has stirred anti-American protests throughout the Arab world.

TIMELINE: ‘Innocence of Muslims’ unrest

"The final product ... bore no resemblance to the film I thought he was making," Nassralla wrote. "Nakoula altered the film without anyone's knowledge, changing its entire focus and dubbing in new dialogue."


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-- Associated Press and staff reports