The chairman of the Jewish Defense League and a member were ordered jailed without bail after authorities said they plotted to blow up a Los Angeles-area mosque and the office of an Arab-American congressman.
The attorney for one of them suggested that government agents, overzealous after Sept. 11, may have entrapped two innocent men who simply have a long history of nonviolent advocacy of Jewish causes.
Irv Rubin, 56, of suburban Monrovia, was arrested Tuesday night along with Earl Krugel, 59, of Los Angeles, after five pounds of explosive powder were delivered to Krugel's home by a federal informant.
The two appeared separately Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Victor Kenton, who ordered them held without bail pending a Dec. 27 preliminary hearing.
"No condition or combination of conditions could reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant and the safety of the community," Kenton said during Rubin's appearance.
When Krugel appeared in court a few minutes later, his attorney, Charles L. Kreindler, said that given the comments made during Rubin's appearance, he would not bother to argue for bail.
Outside court, Kreindler suggested both men may have been the victims of entrapment.
"The government has been very proactive in this case. They may have sent somebody in to set these guys up," he said. "There's no evidence they have ever been involved in any violent activities. Does it make sense for them to start now?"
He said the materials seized from Krugel's San Fernando home Tuesday night were all legal, including guns and gunpowder.
Rubin's attorney, Peter Morris, described his client as a patriotic Air Force veteran who is opposed to terrorism.
"Mr. Rubin...has spent his life fighting terrorism, not engaging in terrorist acts but fighting terrorism," Morris said.
Rubin and Krugel 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.
"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," U.S. Attorney John S. Gordon said at a news conference announcing the arrests.
Federal authorities alleged Rubin and Krugel, in a series of meetings in October, made plans 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.
At the King Fahd Mosque, CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman reports the reaction was shock.
One man said what Irv Rubin allegedly wanted to do was just as bad as other terrorist attacks.
"He's s evil as the other evil people who did damage to innocent lives," he said, wondering what would have happened if an explosion had taken place during Ramadan prayer services.
"The mosque would have been filled with hundreds of people."
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, said Issa, who spoke to reporters in Washington. Issa represents San Diego County.
Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., joined Issa at the news conference, saying he was "proud to stand shoulder to shoulder" with Issa "to condemn this outrageous act of domestic terrorism."
Security, which had already been increased at the mosque after Sept. 11, now is expected to be increased even more.
"We've found generally that the authorities, both Federal and local, have been very forthcoming, when it comes to providing security," Hussein Ibish of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington told CBS Radio News. "I think the fact that Mr. Rubin and his friend were arrested indicates that the authorities are aware of these plots, and that they are ready, willing and able to thwart them."
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.
At an Oct. 19 meeting, the informant was instructed to place a bomb at the King Fahd Mosque, the affidavit said.
"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's wife, Shelley, said authorities are "going on a witch hunt against Jews to show that they're even-handed toward Muslims."
"I'm in agony for my husband. He's been incarcerated for something he hasn't done," she said.
Rubin, who has been chairman of the JDL since 1985, has made a career out of confrontation, challenging white supremacists to fist fights and 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.
The JDL was founded by Meir Kahane in 1968 to mount armed response to anti-Semitic acts in New York.
Kahane, who left the JDL in the 1980s, was shot to death in New York in 1990. El Sayyid Nosair, 36, an Egyptian-born Muslim, was convicted in connection with the shooting.
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