Mark Basseley Youssef, the man behind controversial anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims", was sentenced to death in absentia in his native Egypt on Wednesday, November 27. NBC reported that Mark was among the seven Egytian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based pastor who were found guilty of making the low-budgeted film that triggered bloody protests in various Middle Eastern countries this mid year.
"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," said Judge Saif al-Nasr Soliman of the death sentence.
Mark was sentenced for "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."
Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church did not publish an official comment on the issue. A church insider told Reuters, "The church denounced the movie, which it has nothing to do with. As for today's case, it is a court ruling and the church does not comment on court decisions."
55-year-old Mark, who is also known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, grabbed the world's attention after his film "Innocence of Muslims" made its way out online via YouTube last July. The amateurish movie caused violent protests in various Middle Eastern countries for presenting Prophet Muhammad in offensive ways as a killer and a pedophile.
The amateur filmmaker is currently serving a 1-year jail term in California for violating his probation from a 2010 check fraud conviction. However, none of the violations had to do with the content of "Innocence of Muslims."