Los Angeles -- Two Jewish Defense League figures, including the militant group's chairman, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to conspiring to blow up a mosque and the office of an Arab-American member of Congress. The men, who claimed that the FBI entrapped them, remained held without bail.
JDL Chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and member Earl Krugel, 59, were indicted earlier this month on federal charges in an alleged plot to bomb King Fahd Mosque in suburban Culver City and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the grandson of Lebanese immigrants. Their trial was set for March 19.
The plot was thwarted and the two men were arrested Dec. 12 after explosive powder was delivered to Krugel's home by a longtime JDL member who had become a federal informant, investigators said. The informant said JDL members had learned how to build a napalm bomb with Styrofoam and gasoline.
Other bomb components and weapons were seized at the home.
Outside court, Krugel's attorney, Mark J. Werksman, denounced the informant as "this FBI provocateur, this instigator."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Jessner expressed confidence in the case, saying, "We intend to show that the defendants were not entrapped."
The charges carry maximum penalties of two life sentences for each defendant, plus 75 years for Rubin and 95 years for Krugel.
An official told NBC News last month that investigators believed, based on the testimony of the informant, that the two JDL members thought it was necessary to "take a stand" by bombing a Los Angeles-area mosque.
Investigators said Rubin wanted to "blow up an entire building" but lacked the technology.
Issa played down the alleged plot to bomb his office as "an unusual act of a small band of criminals ... a very small fringe group that has been denounced by the Jewish world."
The JDL was originally formed by Meir Kahane to mount armed responses to anti-Semitic acts in New York. It gained notoriety when its members were linked to bombings, primarily aimed at Soviet targets in retaliation for the way that country treated its Jewish population.
Kahane left the JDL and moved to Israel. 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.