LOS ANGELES, Jan. 13 (JTA) — A federal grand jury here has indicted two members of the Jewish Defense League for allegedly plotting to bomb a Southern California mosque and a U.S. congressman´s office. If convicted, the militant group´s chairman, Irv Rubin, and a follower, Earl Krugel, could face life in prison. Rubin and Krugel are being held in solitary confinement at a Los Angeles detention center. According to federal officials, the men told a JDL member who became a government informant that they believed "Arabs need a wake-up call," and that the JDL needs to let people know they are "alive in a militant way." Both men, who are scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 22 in a U.S. District Court, maintain their innocence. Lawyers for Rubin, 56, and Krugel, 59, the group´s West Coast coordinator, described the charges as a hysterical reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks — and that the two had been entrapped by an FBI informant. The 24-page indictment charges that Rubin and Krugel recruited a person, described as someone who joined the JDL in his teens, to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, Calif., and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). Issa is an Arab American of Lebanese descent who is one of the more vocal congressional critics of Israel. A third potential target was the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is headquartered in a high-rise building in midtown Los Angeles, but Rubin allegedly struck this target from the list. During the course of a dozen meetings of the three alleged plotters between October and December, the unidentified informant contacted the FBI and agreed to wear a concealed tape recorder during future sessions. Rubin and Krugel were arrested on Dec. 11, after the informant delivered five pounds of explosive powder to Krugel´s garage, according to the indictment. In separate phone interviews, defense lawyers for the two men attacked the government´s charges. The second count, which accuses Rubin of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against a U.S. government office, is "outrageous," Peter Morris, who represents Rubin. "They´re trying to raise this to the level of the Sept. 11 attacks." Mark Werksman, Krugel´s lawyer, said that "this case was initiated by, prodded along and overseen at every stage by an FBI informant. The informant provoked discussion about things that Krugel and Rubin would never have done on their own." Jewish organizations, including the local Jewish federation, the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, have expressed their horror at the alleged plot. Steve Goldberg, a friend and one-time lawyer of Rubin, criticized mainstream Jewish organizations, which he says have already "tried and convicted" the two men "without a fair hearing." Rubin was named national chairman of the militant JDL in 1985 by its founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane. Since then, by his own count, Rubin has been arrested 40 times and has been investigated for murder and attempted murder. He has never been convicted of a felony.
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Tom Tugend is JTA's Los Angeles correspondent. A veteran journalist, he also writes for the Jerusalem Post, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and the London Jewish Chronicle.