Egyptian authorities have charged seven Coptic Christians living in the United States and a Florida pastor with insulting Islam and inciting sectarian strife for their alleged links to an online video that has enraged much of the Muslim world.
Egypt's public prosecutor announced the charges Tuesday, the latest development in the deadly backlash against the low-budget, amateurish 14-minute movie trailer produced privately in the United States and posted on YouTube.
The clip from "The Innocence of Muslims" mocks the Muslim Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.
"Innocence of Muslims" was an obscure Internet video until September 11, when rioters, seizing on it, breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Protesters also attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
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.
Reports that Nakoula is a Coptic Christian have raised concern about a possible backlash against the minority religious group in Egypt, where tensions between Copts and Muslims have risen recently.
Egypt also charged Morris Sadek, who is believed to have posted the clip to YouTube.
The Florida pastor charged is Terry Jones, who was allegedly contacted by the filmmaker to help promote the video. Jones sparked some protests in Muslim countries last year when he staged a trial of Islam at his church.
The others accused were identified as Morcos Aziz; Fikri Zokloma, also known as Esmat Zokloma; Nabil Bissada; Nahed Metwali; and Nader Nicola. Aside from Nakoula, who lives in California, and Jones in Florida, it was not clear where the others live in the United States.
In addition to charges of insulting the Islamic religion, insulting Mohammed and inciting sectarian strife, all eight are charged with harming national unity and spreading false information, according to Adel Saaed, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office.
Egyptian authorities added the names to their airport watch list.
Prosecutors said they will ask the international police agency, Interpol, to add the names to its wanted lists. U.S. authorities would also be contacted, according to prosecutors.
Although Washington has made it clear that it did not sanction the film, a week of protests have rippled from Morocco to Malaysia, spurring U.S. officials to increase security at diplomatic missions and demand other governments to take action.
Sherif Doss, head of the Egyptian Coptic Association, said the accused Copts have created their own "cult-like" organization in the United States, have appointed their own minister and are "disregarding any church or religious norms."
Here are the latest key developments:
Call to kill Americans
As part of the fallout from the video, al Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa on Tuesday urged Muslims in the region to kill U.S. government representatives and called the death of Stevens a "gift."
"We encourage all Muslims to continue to demonstrate and escalate their protests ... and to kill their (American) ambassadors and representatives or to expel them to cleanse our land from their wickedness," said the statement from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
The group called last week's killing of Stevens "the best gift you (can) give to his arrogant and unjust administration."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated the Obama administration's stance that video, which she called "reprehensible," was no justification for violence.
Investigation into ambassador's killing
U.S. and Libyan officials have held a series of high-level meetings to "assess what went wrong" in Benghazi, a senior Libyan official said Tuesday. Some of the U.S. officials had flown in for the meetings, which included security experts.
Following the attack, Libya suspected an increase in U.S. drone activity over eastern portions of the country and were worried the Obama administration would take military action because of domestic political considerations, the official told CNN. Mohamed al-Magariaf, newly elected president of Libya's parliament, spoke with the White House "to contain the situation," the official said.
The official said the government urged the Americans to work together "in full partnership" because any military action during this "fragile and sensitive situation" would give "an excuse" to the two main threats to the state: Extremists and loyalists to the deposed Gadhafi regime.
The official expressed concern with the deteriorating regional picture.