California man behind anti-Muslim film gets 1 year in prison for probation violations
LOS ANGELES — The California man behind an anti-Muslim film that roiled the Middle East was sentenced Wednesday to a year in prison for violating his probation stemming from a 2010 bank fraud conviction by lying about his identity.
U.S. District Court Judge Christina Snyder immediately sentenced Mark Basseley Youssef after he admitted to four of the eight alleged violations, including obtaining a fraudulent California driver’s license.
None of the violations had to do with the content of “Innocence of Muslims,” a film that depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, pedophile and a womanizer. The movie sparked violence in Libya and other parts of the Middle East, killing dozens.
Youssef, 55, was arrested in late September, just weeks after he went into hiding when deadly violence erupted in Libya and other parts of the Middle East in response to the movie.
Enraged Muslims had demanded severe punishment for him, with a Pakistani cabinet minister even offering $100,000 to anyone who kills him.
Mojave Desert cross stolen 2 years ago rediscovered in San Francisco Bay Area
HALF MOON BAY — Authorities say a controversial cross honoring war dead that was stolen from its Mojave Desert perch two years ago has turned up hundreds of miles away in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department was notified Monday that a large cross was tied to a fence post in Half Moon Bay. An attached note asked finders to contact authorities.
KGO-TV reports that the National Park Service confirmed it’s the same cross that vanished from Sunrise Rock in the Mojave Desert. The Sheriff’s Department plans to return it.
The cross honoring war dead was taken in 2010 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it didn’t violate separation of church and state because the public land it stood on was being transferred to a veterans group.
A replacement will be dedicated there on Sunday for Veterans Day.
Patriarch Maxim dies after 4 decades at top of Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church at age 98
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria, who weathered a revolt over his communist-era ties to lead the Balkan country’s Orthodox Christians for more than 40 years, has died. He was 98.
The patriarch died of heart failure early Tuesday at a Sofia hospital where he had been for a month, the Holy Synod said in a statement.
The Holy Synod of 13 senior clergy will meet to make funeral arrangements and choose an interim patriarch until a larger Church Council is held within the next four months to pick Maxim’s successor, church officials said.
Orthodox Christianity is Bulgaria’s dominant religion, followed by more than 80 percent of the country’s 7.4 million people. Maxim was the church’s leader for more than four decades, bridging the country’s transition from communism and withstanding efforts to oust him by the new democratic government and rebel priests who saw him as a communist stooge.
Born on Oct. 29, 1914 as Marin Naidenov Minkov, he graduated from the Sofia Seminary in 1935 and entered Sofia University’s theology department in 1938, before rising through the church ranks to be named Patriarch on July 4, 1971.
Brazil’s Truth Commission to investigate the role of the church during dictatorship
SAO PAULO — The Truth Commission investigating human rights abuses committed by Brazil’s former dictatorship will also look into the role Roman Catholic and evangelical churches played during the 1964-1985 military government.
Established last year by President Dilma Rousseff, the commission will investigate whether pro-dictatorship clergy committed human rights abuses or supported members of the military responsible for such abuses.
Brazil has never punished military officials who committed human rights abuses, unlike Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, which also had repressive military regimes. A recent study by the Brazilian government concluded last year that 475 people were killed or “disappeared” by agents of the military regime, far less than in neighboring Argentina or Chile.
The church saw the coup d’etat as a strike against communism, which they feared President Joao Goulart would install in Brazil, said Fernando Altemeyer, a theologian at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo.
But the church decided it could no longer support the military government when it saw that the regime was imprisoning and torturing real and feared opponents, Altemeyer said. Members of the church also began suffering persecution, with at least 100 bishops, priests and nuns arrested and many tortured during the dictatorship.