Pakistan rejects filmmaker bounty as Muslims keep up protest

Pakistan distanced itself Sunday from a cabinet minister's bounty for killing the maker of anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims", as protests against the movie continued from Turkey to Hong Kong.

The Pakistan government has distanced itself from a $100,000 bounty offered by Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, seen here in 2011, for the death of the maker of an anti-Islam film that has sparked protests across the Muslim world.

A spokesman for Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf rejected the $100,000 (75,000-euro) bounty promised by Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, who on Saturday offered a "prize" for killing the filmmaker and invited the Taliban and Al-Qaeda to take part in the "noble deed".

"This is not government policy. We completely dissociate (ourselves) from this," the spokesman told AFP.

Fresh rallies were held across Pakistan Sunday to condemn the film, after violent nationwide protests Friday left 21 people dead as police used tear gas and live rounds to fight back protesters who attacked shops and cinemas and tried to reach Western embassies.

More than 50 people have died in protests and attacks around the world linked to the low-budget film, which mocks Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, since the first demonstrations on September 11. Four US officials, including the ambassador to Libya, were killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

The publication on Wednesday of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed in French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has further stoked anger.

New protests Sunday also gripped Hong Kong, Turkey, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Bangladesh.

Some 3,000 demonstrators in Hong Kong briefly scuffled with police as they tried to deliver a letter to the US consulate.

"Freedom of speech should not be used against any religion," said protester Saeed Uddin, branding the cartoons and the film "malicious, disrespectful and derogatory".

Some 500 protesters in Istanbul burnt US and Israeli flags as they gathered around the Turkish city's iconic Taksim Square, unfurling banners with slogans such as "Death to America".

Greek police fired tear gas to disperse nearly 1,000 demonstrators in central Athens after some of them -- largely immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh -- tried to break through a cordon to march toward the US embassy.

In Saudi Arabia, hundreds of people in a Shiite village in the kingdom's Eastern Province demonstrated against the film, defying the country's ban on protests.

Around 400 people rallied in front of the French embassy in Iran, shouting "Death to America", "Death to Israel", "Death to Britain" and "Death to France". No violence was reported, and the demonstration ended after around 90 minutes.

In Bangladesh, opposition parties enforced a nationwide protest strike, closing most schools, shops and offices.

Israeli police said a Palestinian woman had tried to stab a policeman on an east Jerusalem street Sunday, apparently in protest at the film.

And an Islamist militant group claimed a deadly cross-border attack on Israel from Egypt's Sinai peninsula in protest at the film, a US-based monitoring agency said, citing a statement posted on Islamist websites.

Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) termed the attack Friday -- in which the Israeli army said three attackers and one Israeli soldier were killed -- a "Disciplinary Invasion Against those who Dared Against the Beloved Prophet," said the SITE Intelligence Group.

Germany's weekly Der Spiegel reported Sunday that a far-right group is planning to screen "Innocence of Muslims" in Berlin in November.

Pro-Deutschland leader Manfred Rouhs told the news magazine he had received two verbal agreements from warehouses to stage the event, after several Berlin cinemas declined.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a separate interview that in an age when the Internet can spread content worldwide, freedom of speech must come with a sense of responsibility.

"Sometimes the issue is not knowing if one has the right to do something but knowing if one should do something," Westerwelle told Welt am Sonntag.

The producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is reported to be a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and convicted fraudster, based in Los Angeles and currently out on parole.

US media reports say Nakoula wrote and produced the film, using the pseudonym Sam Bacile before being identified. Police questioned him before he went into hiding with his family.

About the author

columnist
Writer: AFP
Position: News agency