Lawyers for alleged members of a Marxist Palestinian faction facing deportation charged on Wednesday that two of their offices and a car had been the target of suspicious burglaries and that several individuals connected with the case have been harassed in recent weeks.
Based on what he called "a pattern" of similar break-ins this year and in the past, attorney Marc Van Der Hout said "it's possible the FBI or another government agency was involved." He told a Los Angeles new conference, however, that there was "no evidence" to substantiate this.
Rash of Burglaries
Asked to respond, FBI spokesman Ray McElhaney in Washington said, "There is no reason to believe that the FBI was involved in any way in any of these alleged burglaries."
And one of the defense lawyers whose office was burglarized the night of March 12, Gilbert M. Lopez of Downey, said in an interview he didn't think his office's break-in was connected with the case. "It was a common burglary," Lopez said, adding that some computers, computer discs and electronic typewriters were stolen.
Downey Police Det. John Lynch said the break-in was one of a rash of burglaries in the area in the last month.
The lawyers represent eight immigrants--seven Palestinians traveling on Jordanian passports and a Kenyan--who are accused of belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A deportation hearing is scheduled for April 28.
The lawyers described two other burglaries: a break-in last January at the Echo Park law office of attorney Cynthia Lee Barnes, another member of the defense team, and a break-in last Saturday night into a car driven by Glynnis Golden of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group helping the defense lawyers.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division said he couldn't find any record of the Barnes break-in. He said that the Golden burglary on Bonnie Brae Street in the Wilshire District had been reported but that she didn't offer to bring the car to the station for fingerprinting. "It tells me she wasn't that concerned about it," the spokesman said.
Golden told reporters that more than a dozen legal pads were stolen, some containing notes from the defense's private meetings, along with documents, press files, video tapes and other materials related to the deportation case, but not the car's stereo system, her pendant or her watch.
One of the defense attorneys and one of the immigrants had received a recent telephone death threat and a defendant's wife was chased down a Los Angeles freeway last Saturday night in an attempt "to run her off the road," said Van Der Hout and the immigrants' lead counsel, Dan Stormer.
The defense lawyers are not the only ones concerned about burglaries. Last month, government attorney Melainie Fitzsimmons told a Times reporter that some of her case files on the immigrants had been stolen. Several days later, Fitzsimmons said the documents had been found.
Separately, attorney Stormer sharply criticized the government for "absolutely refusing to provide (the defense team) with information" while supposedly leaking material to The Times. The government, he said, was attempting "to use the press to overcome the weakness of the case . . . to prejudice the case in a public forum."
Stormer's comments were largely sparked by a story in Monday's Times about an FBI report on the bureau's surveillance of the Popular Front in the United States. The FBI was irritated too. FBI spokesman McElhaney cautioned a Times reporter that the story "could adversely impact on judicial proceedings."