- Man behind anti-Islam film due in L.A. court next week
- U.S. court fight starts for radical cleric sent from Britain
- Obama and Democrats raise record funds, poll holds steady
Posted: 06 Oct 2012 08:38 PM PDT
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California man behind an anti-Islam film that stoked violent protests in the Muslim world is due to appear in a federal court in Los Angeles next week for a preliminary hearing on whether he violated the terms of his probation over a 2010 bank fraud conviction, court papers show.
Mark Basseley Youssef, 55, who before went by the name Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is scheduled to go before U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder on Wednesday, the documents filed on Friday in U.S. District Court show.
The terms of Youssef's 2011 release from prison include a ban on using aliases without the permission of a probation officer.
The Egyptian-born Youssef has been described as the producer of a crudely made 13-minute video filmed in California and circulated online under a number of titles, including "Innocence of Muslims." It mocked the Prophet Mohammad and sparked a torrent of anti-American unrest in Egypt and other Muslim countries last month.
The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Youssef on September 27 and took him before a federal judge that day for a hearing held amid tight security at which prosecutors accused him of violating the terms of his probation.
A judge that day ordered him held without bail, and a federal prison official later confirmed he was taken to a high-rise federal jail in downtown Los Angeles.
The defendant, who had worked in the gas station industry, declared at the outset of his last hearing that he had changed his name to Mark Basseley Youssef in 2002 from his previous name of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
While previous court documents referred to him as Nakoula, the latest court papers from Friday name him as Youssef. He most recently lived in a suburb of Los Angeles.
An actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, who appeared briefly in the clip, has accused him in a federal lawsuit of making the film under the alias Sam Bacile. Garcia has said she thought she was working on a historical adventure film and did not know it had anything to do with Mohammad.
Other people who appeared in or worked on the film have made similar claims.
Federal authorities have stressed that they are not investigating the film over its content, but Youssef's arrest has led to some criticism from free speech advocates.
Prosecutors did not specify which terms of Youssef's 2011 conditional release he is suspected of violating, but they said he had used aliases and that they could seek to have him sent to prison for up to 24 months if a judge finds he violated his probation.
(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Walsh)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 06 Oct 2012 05:28 PM PDT
NEW YORK (Reuters) - One-eyed radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri made his first appearance in federal court in New York on Saturday after Britain extradited him to the United States to face trial and a potential life sentence on terrorism charges.
The Egyptian-born Hamza, 54, entered U.S. District Court in Manhattan after being refused the prosthetics - including his signature metal hook - that he wears because of his missing forearms.
Hamza is accused by Washington of supporting al Qaeda, aiding a kidnapping in Yemen and plotting to open a training camp for militants in the United States.
He was flown late on Friday to the United States along with four other men also wanted on U.S. terrorism charges.
Hamza is missing both his hands and an eye, injuries he says he sustained while living in Afghanistan in the 1980s and carrying out humanitarian work. Authorities say he was fighting for the Mujahideen against the Soviet Union.
Dressed in blue prison garb, Hamza spoke only once during Saturday's 10-minute court hearing before Magistrate Judge Frank Maas. Through his court-appointed lawyer, Hamza asked that his prosthetics be returned to him and that he receive proper medical attention. It was not clear why authorities did not allow him the prosthetics in court.
He will not be asked to enter a plea until he returns to court on Tuesday.
Under the terms of British and European court rulings authorizing the extradition, the five suspects must be tried in U.S. civilian courts and federal prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty.
U.S. officials said they were pleased Hamza and the other men would finally answer to the long-standing charges.
The extradition "is a watershed moment in our nation's efforts to eradicate terrorism," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Saudi native Khalid al-Fawwaz, 50, and Egyptian Adel Abdul Bary, 52, also appeared in federal court in New York on Saturday. Both pleaded not guilty to charges they and others were involved in the 1998 al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
Also on Saturday, British citizens Babar Ahmad, 38, and Syed Talha Ahsan, 33, charged with supporting al Qaeda and other militant groups by operating various websites promoting Islamic holy war, pleaded not guilty before a federal judge in New Haven, Connecticut, court records showed.
Born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, Hamza moved to Britain as an engineering student in the 1970s, married a British woman and once worked as a doorman at discos in London.
A fiery anti-Western speaker, he is said to have inspired some of the world's most high-profile militants, including Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the accused September 11 conspirators.
The cleric was once a preacher at the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, but was later jailed in Britain for inciting murder and racial hatred.
After being held on the U.S. extradition warrant, he was jailed by a British court in 2006 for inciting Muslims to kill Jews and non-believers, based on extracts of speeches he had given years earlier.
Hamza was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in April 2004. He is accused of involvement in a 1998 hostage-taking in Yemen that resulted in the deaths of four hostages - three Britons and one Australian.
He was also accused of providing material support to al Qaeda by trying to set up a training camp for fighters in Oregon in the United States and of trying to organize support for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
If convicted, Hamza could face up to life in prison.
He lost his eight-year battle to avoid deportation on Friday after two London High Court judges refused a last bid to delay his departure. The European Court of Human Rights refused to stop London from extraditing Hamza and the four others.
NO TRIAL SOON
While all five defendants made initial court appearances on Saturday before judges in New York and Connecticut, there is little likelihood a full trial will begin soon.
Some U.S. officials are concerned their trials could ignite politically charged debate about security threats and whether militants are being coddled by being tried in civilian courts.
Many experts note that U.S. civilian courts have handled many high-profile cases that involved Islamist militants.
Following a closely watched trial in Manhattan federal court, Tanzanian national Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison in January 2011 for his role in the 1998 bombings. Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversaw that trial, will also handle the cases of al-Fawwaz and Abdul Bary, both of whom are slated to appear before Kaplan on Tuesday.
Hamza's case has been assigned to Judge Katherine Forrest, who has been on the bench for less than a year. Last month, Forrest issued a controversial ruling blocking enforcement of a U.S. law's provision that authorizes indefinite military detention for people deemed to have "substantially supported" al Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces."
Government attorneys, who obtained an emergency suspension of her ruling from an appeals court, argued that Forrest's permanent injunction would hurt America's ability to fight wars overseas.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 06 Oct 2012 05:15 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama's campaign and its Democratic allies raised $181 million (112 million pounds) in September for his re-election effort, the largest total that either side has announced yet in the 2012 campaign.
The big September number and a good jobs report on Friday that showed unemployment dipping to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent shifted some attention from Obama's lacklustre debate performance on Wednesday against Republican Mitt Romney.
Helping buoy Obama's fundraising in September was his party's convention and a modest lead in the polls over Romney, whose campaign was plagued by his remark that the 47 percent of the population who receive government funds are "victims."
Obama's campaign said on Saturday that more than 1.8 million people donated to it last month. Of that, 567,000 were new donors. A vast majority of the donations - 98 percent - were $250 or less. The average contribution was $53.
"That's by far our biggest month yet," campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email to supporters, urging them to chip in even more as the November 6 election draws near.
Obama needs a lift after a surprisingly tame performance at the debate shook his campaign's sense that it was closing in on election victory.
However, Romney's strong showing in Denver did little to convince more voters he understands them or is a "good person," according to a Reuters/Ipsos survey released on Saturday.
The Democratic president is ahead of his challenger on character attributes that can win over undecided voters who have not been swayed on tangible policy points, according to the online poll.
On the broad question of who they will vote for in November, Obama kept his 2 percentage point lead among likely voters - 47 percent to 45 percent - in the online survey.
The gap was unchanged from Friday, when Obama led 46 percent to 44 percent in the tracking poll. His lead was 6 percentage points before the two men first went head-to-head in Denver.
"We haven't seen additional gains from Romney. This suggests to me that this is more of a bounce than a permanent shift," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said.
Romney, enjoying a boost of support in many polls after his debate performance, addressed a boisterous crowd of 6,500 in the city of Apopka in central Florida, a state that will be critical in whether he wins the White House.
Romney kept up the pressure on Obama over the U.S. economy a day after the jobless rate dropped below 8 percent for the first time since Obama took office. He said if the size of the workforce was the same now as it was in January 2009, the rate would be much higher, but that many have given up looking for jobs.
"If we calculated, by the way, our unemployment rate, in a way that was consistent with the way it was calculated when he came into office it would be a different number. You see ... if the percentage of the American population who were in the workforce were the same today as the day he was elected our unemployment rate would be above 11 percent," Romney said.
The debate gave Romney a financial boost. A spokeswoman said his team raised $12 million online in less than 48 hours after the Republican criticized Obama in front of 67 million television viewers for his handling of the economy.
The former Massachusetts governor's campaign has not yet released its September fundraising figures, which are also expected to be high.
NO RESPITE IN CASH RACE
Both candidates continue to fight for funds even in the final month of the campaign, reflecting the importance of deep coffers to pay for the last flurry of expensive advertising.
In this bitterly contested race for the White House, on track to be the costliest in U.S. history, campaigns must fill their war chests with enough cash to make expensive media buys and wage on-the-ground operations in the nine or so swing states likely to determine the outcome of the election.
Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $114 million in August, just beating Romney's $111 million. That followed three months when Romney out-raised the incumbent.
Obama's September haul was still slightly lower than four years ago, when his campaign and the DNC together brought in $193 million.
Obama advisers are proud of his campaign's base of low-dollar donors, believing that gives the president an advantage, especially at the end of the election cycle when supporters can keep giving even if they have donated before.
Since the campaign officially kicked off in April 2011, 3.9 million people have donated, it said.
Obama's poor debate may increase the need for infusions of cash to fund ads in swing states such as Ohio, Florida and Iowa.
He leaves on Sunday for a fundraising trip to California in an effort to make October a strong month as well.
Former President Bill Clinton will join Obama at an event at a private residence in Los Angeles to thank long-time donors, the campaign said.
Obama then speaks at an event with some 6,000 people that will feature music from singers Jon Bon Jovi and Jennifer Hudson as well as remarks from actor George Clooney.
The president will then head to a fundraising dinner with roughly 150 people who are paying $25,000 each to attend.
Obama was in Washington on Saturday and had no public events scheduled. Romney spent the morning at a Florida hotel with Ohio Senator Rob Portman preparing for his second debate with Obama on October 16.
Republicans have had greater success in raising funds from outside groups known as Super PACs or political action committees, which can spend unlimited amounts on advertising.
(Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh and Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell, Xavier Briand and Paul Simao)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
|You are subscribed to email updates from The Star Online: World Updates |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google Inc., 20 West Kinzie, Chicago IL USA 60610|