LOS ANGELES, Dec. 12, 2001,(AP)--The chairman and another member of the militant Jewish Defense League have been arrested on suspicion of plotting to blow up a Los Angeles mosque and the office of an Arab-American congressman, federal authorities said Wednesday.

JDL chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, were arrested Tuesday night after the last component of the bomb - explosive powder - was delivered to Krugel's home, 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 office of freshman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

[Mainstream Jewish organizations condemned the bomb plot and applauded the FBI for aggressively investigating the planned attacks.

"The JDL has long been a pariah organization in American Jewish life," Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in a press release. The Anti-Defamation League issued a similar statement, denouncing the "contemptible activities of the JDL and its leadership."]

Investigators were tipped off by a government source about a series of meetings where the plot was worked out, Gordon said.

It was not immediately clear when the alleged plot began or what prompted it. In court papers, authorities quoted Krugel as saying during a meeting that Arabs "need a wake-up call."

Rubin and Krugel were booked on charges of 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.

They were expected to appear in court later Wednesday.

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.

"Perhaps in another country, we would be adversaries," he said. "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.

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 Earl "are completely innocent of anything. They are law-abiding, good people."

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."

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad