Family of California man linked to anti-Muslim film goes into hiding

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Family members of a California man linked to an anti-Islam film that triggered violent protests across the Muslim world went into hiding on Monday, with sheriff’s deputies escorting them from their home to an undisclosed location, authorities said.

The family of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was accompanied from their two-story stucco house in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos before dawn on Monday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

“They are gone,” Whitmore said, adding that deputies gave the family a ride to an undisclosed location to meet Nakoula, who left the home voluntarily on Saturday to be interviewed by federal authorities and has not returned.

Whitmore said he did not know where Nakoula and his family were headed but they were not expected to return to the home in Cerritos, which has been besieged by the media for nearly a week.

Brown Appoints California’s First Muslim Superior Court Judge

Halim Dhanidina, who spent 14 years as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, was appointed to a California Superior Court judgeship May 18 by Governor Jerry Brown.

Dhanidina, a founding member of the Association of South Asian Prosecutors, will be the first Muslim American on a California bench, said Brown, announcing the appointments of 17 judges. Dhanidina will take up his new role June 20, although he has not yet been assigned to a court.

“I hope that my appointment serves as an example to others in the Muslim American community, particularly the youth, that our faith and identity need not be an obstacle to our full participation in California’s civic institutions,” Dhanidina told India-West. “Similarly, I hope to perform my new responsibilities in a way that demonstrates to society at large that Muslim Americans can serve the community in the pursuit of justice with dignity and honor,” he said.

The Chicago-born, Evanston, Ill.,-raised Dhanidina, whose Gujarati parents Lutaf and Mali emigrated from Tanzania to the U.S., in 1960, said that his 14 years as a deputy district attorney and being in court nearly every day have made him intimately familiar with how a courtroom works, including the rules that govern a trial.

The Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council said it had advocated for Dhanidina’s appointment for more than a year. “Dhanidina’s appointment is an important step in ensuring that California’s leaders accurately reflect the communities present in our great state,” said Aziza Hasan, MPAC’s Southern California Government Relations director, in a press statement.

Dhanidina earned his law degree at UCLA, where he served as the co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Pomona College, where he founded the first Muslim Students’ Association, and currently sits on the Board of Governors of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association Los Angeles.