The Coptic Egyptian filmmaker Mark Bassely Youssef, creator of The Innocence of Muslims, a hate film that created huge controversy and sparked protests as it mocked Islam, has been sentenced to death.
He was sentenced today by an Egyptian court in absentia, along with six other Egypt nationals associated with his movie, as well as controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones, who’s been busying himself by promoting the movie around North America.
All of the defendants live in the U.S., and Youssef is serving one year in federal prison in California for probation violations. Youssef has been on probation in a bank fraud case; he violated the terms of his release by applying for a driver’s license under a false name.
Unless any of the currently free seven convicted are stupid enough to go to Egypt, the verdict should have little impact on their day-to-day lives.
Another of those found guilty is an unnamed woman who converted to Christianity from Islam and became a fierce critic of her former religion.
The horrendously low-budget The Innocence of Muslims was roundly mocked for its ridiculous premise and outright hate as it portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, womanizer and idiot.
The government news agency, MENA, said that the defendants had been found guilty of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam, and spreading false information. All of these charges are punishable by the death penalty.
The “Egypt 8” have until January 29 to appeal the decision, at which point the countries religious authority will decree if the verdict should stand. Any appeal could be difficult as today, two of Egypts top appeal courts announced the suspension of work over President Morsi’s controversial decree last week.
Controversial Florida pastor, Terry Jones, whose church only has around 50 followers, attained worldwide celebrity in 2010 when he threatened to publicly burn the Qur’an, until being talked down by a New Jersey car dealer. Jones told AP in an interview today:
“We can speak out here in America, that freedom means that we criticize government leadership, religion even at times. Islam is not a religion that tolerates any type of criticism.”