LOS ANGELES — The chairman of the Jewish Defense League was charged Wednesday with plotting to blow up a Los Angeles-area mosque and the office of an Arab-American congressman.
Irv Rubin, 56, and a member of the militant group, Earl Krugel, 59, both of Los Angeles, were arrested late Tuesday after five pounds of explosive powder — the last component of the bomb — were delivered to Krugel’s home by a federal informant who was a longtime JDL member, authorities said at a news conference.
Other bomb components and weapons were seized at Krugel’s home, U.S. Attorney John S. Gordon said at a news conference.
“Last night’s arrests confirm that we meant what we said: 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.
Rubin and Krugel were due in court Wednesday to face charges of conspiracy to destroy a building by means of an explosive, which carries a maximum five-year sentence, and possession of a destructive device related to a crime of violence, which carries a 30-year mandatory sentence.
Rubin’s wife, Shelley, said authorities are “going on a witch hunt against Jews to show that they’re even-handed towards 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 Monrovia home.
“Irv Rubin never had anything to do with explosives,” said Rubin’s attorney, Peter Morris. “It seems to us that, given the timing ... the government’s action is part of an overreaction to the Sept. 11 events.”
In a series of meetings in October, Rubin and Krugel allegedly schemed to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and the San Clemente office of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
During one secretly audiotaped meeting, Krugel allegedly said Arabs “need a wakeup call” and the JDL needed to do something to one of their “filthy” mosques, the affidavit said.
The original target was to be the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles but it was changed last weekend, the document said.
Tajuddin Shuaib, director of the King Fahd Mosque, said he was astonished. No threats were received, he said, to the estimated 1,000 people who have used the mosque to pray during the Ramadan season.
“I can’t understand why people would do such a thing. We are not against Jews. We are not against anybody. We are like any church or synagogue or temple,” Shuaib said.
“This is shocking news to receive. All agree this was an unusual act by a small band” of individuals, Issa, who represents San Diego County, told a news conference in Washington.
With several Jewish lawmakers standing alongside him, Issa said: “Perhaps in another country, we would be adversaries. We’re not going to be divided by ethnic backgrounds.”
Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said he was “proud to stand shoulder to shoulder” with Issa “to condemn this outrageous act of domestic terrorism.”
The case was broken when an informant who claimed to have committed crimes for the JDL, including planting a bomb at a mosque, contacted an FBI agent on Oct. 18, according to an affidavit. Details were not revealed.
The confidential source said JDL members learned how to build a napalm bomb with Styrofoam, gasoline and an oxygen-breathing apparatus. The person also was directed to gather information on Islamic religious institutions in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.
The JDL supplied the informant with a camera to photograph potential targets and Krugel developed the film, the affidavit alleged. The informant conducted research on the Internet and provided Krugel with directions and backgrounds on potential targets.
At an Oct. 19 meeting, the informant was instructed to place a bomb at the King Fahd Mosque, the affidavit said.
Rubin and Krugel allegedly considered other targets, including a bar and a tattoo parlor they believed were owned by Nazis.
“Rubin stated that it was his desire to blow up an entire building but that the JDL did not have the technology to accomplish such a bombing,” the affidavit said. “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.”
Odeh, regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, was killed by a bomb at his Santa Ana office in 1985.
The JDL was suspected but no arrests were made. The FBI investigation remains open and there is a $1 million reward for information leading to conviction.
Aslam Abdullah, editor of Minaret, a Muslim magazine that shares offices with the MPAC, called the plot an attack on democracy.
“Terrorism is not the monopoly of any religion,” he said. “This is an attack on pluralism ... we should fight it together.”
The JDL opposes what it considers threats to the Jewish people, whether from Arabs, evangelizing Christians or pro-peace Jews. It claims about 13,000 members but some experts estimate there are only a few dozen active members.
“They’re extremists. They really have been marginalized. None of the credible (Jewish) groups would have anything to do with these people,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
Originally formed by Meir Kahane to mount armed response to anti-Semitic acts in New York City, it gained notoriety when its members were linked to bombings, most of them aimed at Soviet targets in retaliation for the way that country treated its Jewish population.
On the Web:
Jewish Defense League: http://www.jdl.org/