Egyptian Government Seeks Arrests over Muhammad Film: Who’s Who

(amended)

Reason to doubt involvement of some of those named

As has been widely reported, the Egyptian government is seeking the arrest several expatriate Copts, plus Pastor Terry Jones, for supposedly “undermining national unity and independence through a video that ridicules Prophet Mohamed”. CNN reports:

The charges — largely symbolic because the accused all live outside Egypt — name alleged filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who is identified by Egyptian officials as Elia Bassili.

…Egypt also charged Morris Sadek, who is believed to have posted the clip to YouTube.

…The others accused were identified as Morcos Aziz; Fikri Zokloma, also known as Esmat Zokloma; Nabil Bissada; Nahed Metwali; and Nader Nicola.

Although CNN, and other media, have headlined those accused as being “Coptic Christians linked to infamous video”, it’s not quite clear who all of these people are. Of course, people shouldn’t be under fear of arrest (or worse) for blasphemy whether or not they’re supposedly “guilty”, but it is possible that the Egyptian government is deliberately associating certain persons with the film for its own purposes. Working out who’s who is complicated by the variety of Arabic transliterations.

In particular, “Morcos Aziz” is identified by the Egyptian government as “presenter of a religious TV show in the USA”. There’s already scope for some confusion here: there is a famous Father Morqos Aziz, a high-profile Coptic priest who has a YouTube channel here. Aziz has been quoted in the media on a number of occasions over the years on the problems faced by Copts in Egypt, and he either was or still is (reports vary) the priest of the famous Hanging Church in Cairo. However, according to this Arabic language report (brought to my attention by Marlyn Tadros on Twitter) he has nothing to do with the film and he is against the defamation of religions; it seems that the name on the list may refer to someone else, although he’s had to reiterate the point in relation to an earlier list (see below). Other spelling variations of his name include: Marqus Aziz Khalil; Morkos Aziz Khalil; Morcos Aziz Khalil; and Maurice Aziz.

There is also reason to be sceptical about the supposed involvement of Nahed Metwali, who is actually convert from Islam. She has appeared in the media alongside Father Zakaria Boutros, and she has written about Islam, but she seems to have a different temperament from the makers of the film. Name variations include Nahed Metwally, Nahed Metwaly, and Nahed-Mahmoud Metwally.

Nader Nicola, or “Nader Farid Nicola”, is unknown.

By contrast, some other persons named have perhaps had some association with Nakoula, although the experience of Joseph Nasrallah, who claims he was misled by him, suggests there is a need for caution. I discussed Sadek a few days ago, and his links to Pastor Terry Jones in 2010. Nabil Bassida is named by the Egyptian government as “Nabil Adib, the media coordinator” of Sadek’s “Coptic Assemby”; other forms of his name are “Nabil Besadeh”, “Nabil Besadeh”, and “Nabil Adib Bassida”. Sadek came to attention for promoting a trailer of the film on his website, and according to a report for McClatchy Newspapers he made efforts to drum up interest:

Morris Sadek… had an exclusive story for Gamel Girgis, who covers Christian emigrants for al Youm al Sabaa, the Seventh Day, a daily newspaper here. Sadek had a movie clip he wanted Girgis to see; he e-mailed him a link.

“He told me he produced a movie last year and wanted to screen it on Sept. 11th to reveal what was behind the terrorists’ actions that day, Islam,” Girgis said, recalling the first call, which came on Sept. 4. Sadek, a longtime source, “considers me the boldest journalist, the only one that would publish such stories.”

Girgis said he watched the movie and found it insulting. He didn’t want to write about it. But Sadek called Girgis back and urged him to, telling him he could not deny that the movie existed.

Meanwhile, the involvement of Firkri/Esmat Zokloma is unclear, although some reports name him and Sadek as “producers” of the film. In June 2010 Zokloma spoke at Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s rally against the supposed “Ground Zero Mosque”.  He was in the news in relation to another matter in December, when an unlicensed restaurant building he owned burned down. Name variations include Fekri Abdel-Mesih, Fekry Abdelmessieh, Esmat Zaklama, Esmat Zaqlama, and Esmat Zelgah. An unknown “Fibbi Abdel-Mesih Bolous Salib” (or “Fibbi Abdel-Mesih Bolos Salib”) mentioned by the Egyptian government alongside Zokloma is perhaps a mistaken duplication of the same person.

Some reports have a variation on the list, naming Adel Riad, Ihab Yaacoub and Jack Atallah. It’s not clear who these individuals are, and their names appear to have been incorporated from an earlier list of Copts banned from Egypt over the film. On 12 September, Bikyamasr reported that:

…The 9 Copts include Morris Sadek, a notorious figure known for his virulent attacks on Islam, Priest Morqos Aziz, Esmat Zelgah, Nabil Besadeh, Ehab Yaqoub, Jack Attalah, Nahed Metwally, Ellia Basily and Adel Riyad.

They were put on the list after cases were filed against them for allegedly participating in the hate campaigns against Islam and Muslims, according to the Attorney General’s office.

There are some other name variations to be noted: Morris Sadek is also “Morris Sadiq Abdel-Shahid” and “Morees Sadek”, and  Nakoula Nakoula/Elia Bassili is also “Elliya Bassilie” and “Elia Bassily”.

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