The filmmaker behind "Innocence of Muslims" — the low-budget film that's been blamed by many for the wave of violence that erupted in the Mideast this fall — was sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt on Wednesday, NBC News reports.
The Egyptian-American filmmaker, who has gone by a number of aliases and was most recently identified as Mark Youssef in a U.S. court, was identified as Eli Basily, also known as Nicola Basily, by the Egyptian court.
Youssef was among seven people to receive the death sentence by the Cairo court, along with six other Egyptian Coptic Christians who were allegedly involved with the film. Charges included intentionally committing acts to harm the unity of the country and peace of its land; calling to divide the country into small states on a sectarian basis and harming national unity; and using religion to promote extremist ideas resulting in religious division and disrespect [of] heavenly religion, NBC said.
The trailer for the film sparked outrage earlier this year when the Arabic translation hit the Internet. Among other things, the trailer insulted the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Cast members from the film have said they were misled about the nature of the project, and that the offensive dialogue was later dubbed in.
According to Egyptian judge Said al-Nasr Soliman, "The seven accused persons were convicted of insulting the Islamic religion through participating in producing and offering a movie that insults Islam and its prophet."
Youssef, a 55-year-old Coptic Christian, was sentenced to a year in prison in California earlier this month, after admitting that he had violated his probation stemming from an earlier bank-fraud conviction. Under Egyptian law, those convicted of a capital-punishment crime in absentia are entitled to an automatic appeal upon their return to Egypt.