AMMAN/WASHINGTON: A man who claims to be the producer of an anti-Islam movie that has sparked violent protests across the Arab world and in several Muslim-majority countries says he has no regrets about making the film.
“No, I do not regret it. I am saddened by the killing of the ambassador but I do not regret making it,” Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt living in California, told American Arabic-language Radio Sawa.
He was referring to the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi by a mob reportedly angered by the film, “Innocence of Muslims.”
“I am the one who leaked the 14 minutes and put it on the Internet – I am thinking about releasing the full film. Nobody manipulated my film,” Nakoula said.
Asked whether he felt guilty that the violence was being directed against U.S. citizens, Nakoula said: “Yes, I feel guilty. America has nothing to do with this subject and is suffering the consequences of a film that has nothing to do with it.”
After Egypt, Yemen and Libya, protests have spread across the Middle East and further afield, including Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Gaza Strip, Kuwait, Sudan and Tunisia.
“I had published a book in 1994 [on Islam] and it impressed certain parties who asked me if I could turn this book into a movie and this is what I did,” Nakoula said. “I have a message for the whole world and not for Muslims. I hope that you watch the movie in full before you judge it.”
He described himself as “an Arab thinker interested in Islamic affairs.”
Mystery remains over exactly who is behind the film, amid claims of Jewish and Coptic Christian involvement.
The film’s director was initially identified as Sam Bacile, who claimed to be an American-Israeli with Jewish financial backing. He reportedly went into hiding after the protests erupted in Egypt and Libya.
But doubts about his identity grew, culminating in U.S. media reports pointing to Nakoula, a California Coptic Christian convicted of financial crimes, living outside Los Angeles.
The probation department in California’s central district said Friday it was reviewing the case of Nakoula, who had previously been convicted on bank fraud charges and was banned from using computers or the Internet as part of his sentence.
Karen Redmond, a spokeswoman for the administrative office of the U.S. courts, confirmed that the review was under way. If the probation department determines Nakoula violated terms of his release, a judge could send him back to prison.
Steve Klein, a consultant on the movie, denied that Israeli authorities had been involved in the film, and said Bacile was mortified to hear of the U.S. ambassador’s death.
Online reports cited in the New York Times blog suggested Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-born Copt, and his ally Terry Jones, the Florida pastor notorious for Koran-burning stunts, had cooperated in promoting the movie.
But later a report cited by U.S. media identified Nakoula as saying he managed the company that produced the film, and that he was a Coptic Christian.
Klein said he did not know the filmmaker’s nationality.