The chairman of the Jewish Defense League and a member of the extremist organization are accused of a bombing scheme aimed at the office of an Arab-American congressman and a prominent Los Angeles mosque.
JDL chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, were held without bail Wednesday after being charged with the failed bombing plot.
Authorities said the two men held a series of meetings in October to plan the bombing of the King Fahd Mosque and the San Clemente office of freshman 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, according to an affidavit.
Investigators also say Rubin wanted to "blow up an entire building" but lacked the technology.
The pair was arrested Tuesday night after explosive powder 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 Los Angeles home.
"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 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.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Victor Kenton ordered both men held without bail and set a preliminary hearing for Dec. 27.
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. A day later, the informant was instructed to place a bomb at the King Fahd Mosque.
The informant said JDL members had learned how to build a napalm bomb with Styrofoam and gasoline.
It was not immediately clear when the alleged plot began. The suspects allegedly considered other targets, including a bar and a tattoo parlor they believed were owned by white supremacists.
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."
Krugel's attorney, Charles L. Kreindler, said the materials seized from his client's house were all legal, and suggested that this may be a case of government 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."
Tajuddin Shuaib, director of the King Fahd Mosque, said he was astonished by the alleged plot. No threats were received to the estimated 1,000 people who have used the mosque to pray during the Ramadan season, he said.
"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.
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."
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, whose symbol is a raised fist inside a Star of David, has the motto "Never Again," referring to the World War II murder of 6 million Jews. It was founded in 1968 by Meir Kahane to mount armed response to anti-Semitic acts in New York City.
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.
The JDL claims nearly 13,000 members nationwide, but experts say it may have only a few dozen active members.