California court hearing set in suit over anti-Muslim film

Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:31pm IST

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* Actress seeks film's removal from YouTube

* Says she has received death threats

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES, Sept 20 (Reuters) - The actress who claims she was defrauded by the producer of an anti-Islam movie that has spawned violent protests across the Muslim world on Thursday will ask a California judge to order the short film to be pulled down from YouTube.

Actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who said she had received death threats after the video was posted on YouTube, has accused Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the California man linked to the making of "The Innocence of Muslims," of fraud and slander.

Garcia also named Google Inc. and its YouTube unit as defendants in the suit she filed on Wednesday. She said her right to privacy had been violated and her life endangered, among other allegations.

A hearing on her request for an injunction was scheduled for Thursday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court. A Google spokesman on Wednesday said the company was reviewing the complaint and would be at Thursday's court proceeding.

A representative for Nakoula's criminal attorney declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Garcia's is the first known civil lawsuit connected to the making of the video, which depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a womanizer and a fool, and which helped generate a torrent of violence across the Muslim world last week, the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The violence included an attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed. U.S. and other foreign embassies were also stormed in cities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East by furious Muslims.

Garcia accused a producer of the movie, whom she identified as Nakoula and said he used the alias Sam Bacile, of duping her into appearing in a "hateful" film that she had been led to believe was a simple desert adventure movie.

"There was no mention of 'Mohammed' during filming or on set. There were no references made to religion nor was there any sexual content of which Ms. Garcia was aware," the lawsuit said.

For many Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is blasphemous. Caricatures deemed insulting in the past have provoked protests and drawn condemnation from officials, preachers, ordinary Muslims and many Christians.

Garcia said the film, which has circulated online as a 13-minute trailer, had prompted her family to refuse to allow her to see or babysit her grandchildren, fearing for their safety.

The suit accuses Nakoula, Google and YouTube of invasion of privacy, unfair business practices, the use of Garcia's likeness without permission and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

U.S. 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 under the Constitution's guarantee of free speech.

But Nakoula, a Coptic Christian California man who pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2010, was interviewed on Saturday by federal probation officers probing whether he violated the terms of his release while making the film.

Nakoula, who was released from prison in 2011, is prohibited from accessing the Web or assuming aliases without the approval of his probation officer, court records show. Violations could result in him being sent back to prison.

Nakoula, 55, did not return to his house in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos following his interview with federal probation officers. Last week, he denied involvement in the film in a phone call to his Coptic bishop in Los Angeles.

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