The case has been filed by the emergency state security court in Cairo. The case is largely seen as symbolic since the seven men and one woman are believed to be outside of Egypt, probably hold US citizenship and unlikely to travel to the country to face the charges. Instead, the prosecutor’s decision to take legal is seen as a public relations exercise to absorb domestic anger over the amateur film, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, womanizer and buffoon.
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the accused, which includes the film’s alleged producer, face charges of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information. The office said they could face the death penalty, if convicted. No date for the trial has been set.
Among those charged is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Copt living in southern California and believed to be behind the film. Florida-based pastor Terry Jones, who allegedly was contacted by the makers of Innocence of Muslims and asked to help promote the film. Jones rose to notoriety in 2010 when he backed down from a planned Qur’an burning after pressure from US defence officials who said it would endanger troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other, Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who pushed the video on his website, are also among those charged.
The connection of the other five accused in the case to the film was not yet immediately clear.
The Egyptian prosecutor’s office said the accused, including the alleged producer of the film, would face charges of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information. It said they could face the death penalty if convicted. No date for the trial has been set.
Ultraconservative Salafi lawyer Mamdouh Ismail praised the prosecutor’s decision. While recognizing that the eight will be tried in absentia, Ismail said referring them to trial will help curb public anger.
The prosecutor’s statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, said that after studying the film investigators have determined that it contains scenes offensive to Islam and state institutions. It also says they questioned 10 plaintiffs before issuing the charges.
The film, clips of it appeared on YouTube, mocked the Prophet Muhammad and drove small but angry crowds to protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and an attack on the American Consulate in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador. Other protests have erupted across the Muslim world over the video, including Afghanistan, Yemen and Indonesia. The angry protests have now boiled over to 30 countries with the latest in Thailand.
TSR is expected to release some names of Islamophobes behind this movie as well to assist in calming down the protests.