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Court hearing could determine if ‘Innocence of Muslims’ filmmaker violated probation

Edwin Calderon/NBC LA

LA County Sheriff deputies escort Mark Basseley Youssef from his Cerritos home in September 2012.

A Southern California man who was a central figure in making a controversial film denigrating Islam that sparked anger across the Middle East is back in federal court today for a probation hearing.

Mark Basseley Youssef, 55, has an evidentiary hearing at 1:30 p.m. today in downtown Los Angeles. He has denied all eight allegations leveled by federal prosecutors that he violated his probation agreement. He was arrested in September.   

Youssef, also known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, had been living at his Cerritos home on federal supervised release since last year in connection to a conviction for bank fraud in 2010. 

Federal prosecutors will seek to prove that Youssef violated his probation by using aliases while making Innocence of Muslims.  He is accused of lying to probation officers about using the name Sam Bacile and variations of it without prior permission, and for allegedly having a California driver’s license registered under the name of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula without his probation officer's permission.

Federal magistrate judge Christina Synder could make a decision today on whether those allegations are true. If Youssef is found to have violated his probation, he could spend two years in federal prison. The sentence request is an unusually lengthy one for probation violations. Free speech advocates have said they are suspicious of Youssef’s arrest and believe it has more to do with the political unrest the film has caused and not probation violations.

At Youssef’s last court hearing, his defense attorney Steven Seiden addressed the mass of media outside the courthouse. He defended his client, saying the press, the U.S. President and Secretary of State unfairly blamed Youssef for the violence and protests in the Middle East.

“My client was not the cause of the violence in the Middle East. Clearly it was pre-planned and that was just an excuse and trigger point to have more violence,” Seiden said.

Youssef is being held in federal prison at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown L.A. without bail.

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