JDL chairman, follower accused of plotting to bomb mosque, office of Arab American congressman
Wednesday, December 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The chairman and another member of the militant Jewish Defense League were charged Wednesday with plotting to blow up a Los Angeles mosque and the office of an Arab-American congressman.
JDL chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, were arrested Tuesday night after explosive powder, the last component of a bomb, was delivered to Krugel's home by a longtime JDL member who had turned federal informant, U.S. Attorney John Gordon said.
Other bomb components and weapons were seized at the home.
Authorities said the two planned to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and the San Clemente office of freshman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Rubin and Krugel were charged in a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to destroy a building by means of an explosive, which carries up to five years in prison, and possession of a destructive device related to a crime of violence, which carries a 30-year mandatory sentence.
``If you cross the line from lawfully expressing your political or religious belief to committing violent acts then you will likely end up facing federal prosecution,'' Gordon said.
It was not immediately clear when the alleged plot began or what prompted it.
But in court papers, authorities said Krugel was secretly taped during a meeting as saying Arabs ``need a wakeup call'' and the JDL needed to do something to one of their ``filthy'' mosques.
Rubin's attorney, Peter Morris, said his client had nothing to do with the explosives. ``It seems to us that, given the timing the government's action is part of an overreaction to the Sept. 11 events,'' he said.
Rubin's wife, Shelley, said her husband and Krugel were innocent and authorities were ``on a witch hunt against Jews to show that they're evenhanded toward Muslims.''
``I'm in agony for my husband. He's been incarcerated for something he hasn't done,'' she said from the doorway of her home.
According to investigators, Rubin wanted to ``blow up an entire building'' but lacked the technology.
``Rubin also said that the JDL should not go after a human target because they still had not heard the end of the Alex Odeh incident,'' the indictment said.
Odeh, regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was killed by a bomb at his Santa Ana office in 1985. The case remains unsolved.
Rubin and Krugel allegedly considered other targets, including a bar and a tattoo parlor they believed were owned by white supremacists.
The case was broken when a JDL member who claimed to have committed crimes for the group contacted an FBI agent Oct. 18, according to court papers. A day later, the informant was instructed to place a bomb at the mosque.
The informant said JDL members had learned how to build a napalm bomb with Styrofoam and gasoline.
Issa, 46, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, serves on the House Committee on International Relations and supports Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. He called the arrests ``shocking news.''
``All agree this was an unusual act by a small band'' of individuals, Issa said in Washington. Flanked by several Jewish lawmakers, he said: ``Perhaps in another country, we would be adversaries. We're not going to be divided by ethnic backgrounds.''
Mosque director Tajuddin Shuaib said no threats had been received by the mosque. He noted that the alleged plot came during the holy month of Ramadan, when as many as 1,000 people attend the mosque to pray.
``I can't understand why people would do such a thing,'' he said. ``We are not against Jews. We are not against anybody. We are like any church or synagogue or temple.''
Gordon said the original target was to be the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, but the target was changed during a meeting last weekend.
Originally formed by Meir Kahane to mount armed response to anti-Semitic acts in New York, the JDL gained notoriety when its members were linked to bombings in the United States, most of them aimed at Soviet targets in retaliation for the way that country treated its Jews.
Kahane left the JDL in the 1980s. A power struggle ensued, with Rubin among the contenders for its leadership.
Kahane was assassinated in New York in 1990. El Sayyid Nosair, 36, an Egyptian-born Muslim, was convicted in connection with the shooting.
The JDL claims to have 13,000 members, but experts say it may have only few dozen active members.
Rubin has made a career out of confrontation, challenging white supremacists to fistfights, or burning a Confederate flag outside a courthouse. By his own count he has been arrested more than 40 times. In 1980, he was tried and acquitted of soliciting the murders of Nazis in the United States.
A lawsuit filed by Rubin resulted in a court decision last year banning prayer during Burbank City Council meetings.
Maher Hathout, a senior adviser for the Los Angeles chapter of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said the arrests sent an encouraging message to the Muslim community.
``We can easily develop an attitude that (federal authorities) are out to get us,'' he said. ``But it seems they are out to get anyone who breaks the law.''