Seen with a young actress who is now
living in fear for her life, this is the first picture of the man said
to be behind the anti-Islam movie that has triggered violence across
the Middle East.
Basseley Nakoula – also known as Sam Bacile – was last week named by the
FBI as the film-maker responsible for Innocence Of Muslims, which
ridicules the prophet Muhammad.
Mail on Sunday has exclusively obtained this on-set image of him with
the film’s star Anna Gurji, who says she was duped by the 55-year-old
Conman: Nakoula Basseley Nakoula on the set of the film with Ms Gurji in a red wig
Nakoula is an Egyptian-born
Coptic Christian. Now living in California, he is a convicted drug
dealer and conman who was last released from jail in June last year.
film has ignited anti-US clashes from Morocco to Malaysia. Seven people
have been killed, thousands injured and last night the rioting had
spread to Sydney, Australia. It was also reported that Sudan had
rejected a US request to be allowed to send in Marines to protect its
In California, 21-year-old Ms
Gurji, who plays Muhammad’s child bride, spoke yesterday of her fear of
reprisals and how she was ‘betrayed’ by Nakoula. ‘I was playing the
youngest bride of a character named George,’ she said. ‘I had no idea
George would be changed to Muhammad. I’m locked up in my house. I’m
terrified people in the Middle East will blame me.
‘I’m Catholic so they might think I have
something against Muslims. I’m taking pills to sleep. I’ve been crying
for days. I feel betrayed. My face is stuck on the movie clip. People
see that awful film and they see me.’
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is escorted out of his home by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officers in Cerritos, California
Ms Gurji said she and her
fellow actors believed they were making an action film called Desert
Warrior and that Nakoula, or ‘Sam’ as she knew him, never discussed
‘I was told I was
to be Hilary, the young bride of a character called George,’ she said.
‘The film was about a comet that falls to Earth in the ancient Middle
East. There are different tribes who think the comet is somehow holy and
fight over it. There were supposed to be lots of special effects so a
lot of the filming was in front of a green screen. It was super
low-budget. I was getting $75 [£50] a day and all my scenes were shot
with George against the green screen. I had no idea how it would be
‘Maybe I’m naive
but no warning bells went off. I auditioned, showed up and did my lines.
None of us involved in it had any idea there was a secret agenda.’
Chaos: Smoke rises from the US embassy building in Tunis during a protest against Nakalou's film
A protester holding his rifle during the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on 11th September
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.
film sparked 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. Protests have spread to other countries across
the Muslim world.
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
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.
attorneys visited Nakoula's home hours before he was taken in for
questioning. They said they were there to consult with him.
violent protests over the film in Libya caused mob attacks in Benghazi
that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American