JERUSALEM (JTA) — Egypt charged seven Egyptian-born Coptic Christians living in the United States and an American pastor with insulting Islam.
A public prosecutor in Cairo on Tuesday announced the charges over an anti-Muslim film made in California that insults the Prophet Muhammad, according to reports. A 14-minute trailer dubbed into Arabic surfaced last week on YouTube, sparking unrest throughout the Arab world and in Arab communities in other countries. The violence led to the death of four American diplomats in Libya in a rocket attack.
The indictment accuses the eight with "insulting the Islamic religion, insulting the Prophet and inciting sectarian strife." They could be sentenced to death if convicted.
Among those charged is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who originally gave his name to media outlets as Sam Bacile and was reported to have produced, directed and written "Innocence of Muslims." He claimed to be an Israeli-American real estate developer hoping to help Israel with the film, which he said was financed with $5 million from 100 Jewish donors, which was later disproved, though many in the Arab world continues to believe his story.
Nakoula was questioned by Los Angeles-area police over his involvement and released.
The pastor charged is Terry Jones, who in 2010 threatened to burn the Koran. He has expressed public support for the film.
About 10 percent of the Egyptian population of some 83 million is Christian, according to Reuters.