LOS ANGELES - The man behind a US-made film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) that triggered deadly protests around the world was sent to jail for a year for breaching his probation terms.
"His deception actually caused real harm to people," Assistant US Attorney Robert Dugdale told the Los Angeles court, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Mark Basseley Youssef, a Coptic Christian of Egyptian origin, appeared in court on Wednesday, November 7, on charges of violating terms of his probation in a previous offense.
Freedom of Expression vs. Respect for the Prophet
Freedom of Expression from an Islamic Perspective
Muhammad: A 21st Century Prophet? (Special Folder)A Mercy for All
He was found guilty of using aliases and lying to his probation officer, breaching the terms of his supervised release from prison this year after serving time for bank fraud.
Youssef admitted to using the alias Sam Bacile, a name several actors and others from an anti-prophet film said he had used in producing the Internet video.
In addition to a year in jail, US District Judge Christina Snyder ordered Youssef placed on four years of supervised release once he got out.
Youssef has been in protective custody since his arrest in September for violating the terms of his probation.
The Egyptian-born man is believed to be behind an anti-Prophet movie that triggered massive protests around the world last month.
Titled Innocence of Muslims, the movie portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.
The offensive material sparked a torrent of anti-American protests around the world in September that left score of people dead.
The violence coincided with an attack on US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya.
Defense lawyers argued that the filmmaker was jailed for making the anti-prophet film.
"This hearing had everything to do with the movie," lawyer Steven Seiden told reporters after the hearing, according to Reuters.
He said the government was using the probation case to punish Youssef for making the film, thus chilling his client's constitutional rights to freedom of expression.
The US government has dismissed the allegations.
Dugdale, the assistant attorney, said in court that Youssef was not being prosecuted for the content of his film but because "the way he made this movie, he did defraud people," in part by operating under an assumed identity.
He said at least one actress feared for her life, while others "believe their careers are ruined" by appearing in the anti-prophet video.
Actors in the movie have said that they learned that some of their lines spoken in the production had been dubbed over.
At least one actress has sued Youssef, claiming her image and reputation were harmed and her safety was put in jeopardy, citing a fatwa she said an Egyptian cleric had issued against anyone connected with the movie.
Dugdale said Youssef had "betrayed" the actors involved in the film by not telling them he was a "recently released convicted felon."
He also deceived them by dubbing anti-Islamic dialogue over their lines after the movie was shot.
"He made that choice for other people," the prosecutor said.
Such behavior was part of a "long-standing pattern of deception" by Youssef, he added.Youssef previously was convicted of fraudulently obtaining 641 credit and debit cards and 60 bank accounts, defrauding banks of $800,000.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net