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Family of Slain Arab-American Still Waiting for Justice

October 18, 1987|STEVE EMMONS | Times Staff Writer

"The Alex Odeh case is the highest priority investigation in our domestic terrorism program, and it will continue to be until it is solved," Revell told the subcommittee. "We have suspects in this case, and we are pursuing these suspects."

Grand Jury Convened

Last April, Revell told the ADC convention in Washington that a federal grand jury had been convened in Los Angeles to investigate activities against "the Arab community by Jewish extremist groups."

But last week, Revell did not return phone queries on the case, and Assistant U.S. Atty. Steve Czuleger in Los Angeles refused to comment on even the existence of such a grand jury.

"I can't comment on grand juries at all," Czuleger said. "It's against the law. I can tell you that this case has been assigned to the L.A. Joint Terrorist Task Force," which is composed of federal and local law enforcement officers.

Charles Rose, an assistant U.S. attorney in New York City, said that soon after the Odeh bombing, federal investigators became convinced that it was linked to similar bombings--one the previous August in Brentwood, N.Y., in which one person was injured, and another the previous September in Paterson, N.J., in which one man was killed. But unlike Odeh, the victims of those bombings were purported to have Nazi backgrounds.

"There is a similarity in method and a similarity in device" between those two bombings and the Odeh bombing, Rose said. "Suspects have been identified, and the investigation continues."

But Rose said other, less serious bombings in New York City appear unrelated. The people who were arrested and who pleaded guilty to those have been "pretty well eliminated as being involved" in the Odeh slaying, he said.

Those incidents included the tossing of a tear-gas grenade within the Metropolitan Opera House during a ballet performed by a Soviet troupe and the throwing of firebombs at a Soviet residential complex in the Bronx and at Avery Fisher Hall the day the Moscow State Symphony was scheduled to perform.

Rose said three pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, specifically, using the Jewish Defense League "to carry out bombings, extortion and fraud." Two defendants--Victor Vancier and Mary Young, both of New York City--could each face 20 years' imprisonment and are expected to be sentenced within a few weeks. The third, Jay Cohen, also of New York City, recently committed suicide at an upstate New York resort. "We are convinced it was suicide," Rose said.

The first person who had been arrested, Murray Young of New York City, reportedly helped investigators in the case and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of "aiding a tear-gas attack."

"I'm convinced the investigation is active. I'm convinced of it," Bouhafa said. "I have to believe that the people who are arresting someone for smoke bombs at an opera house are even more interested in a murder. I've got to assume that. There seems to be a whole lot of activity going on." Five days before the Odeh bombing, the Italian liner Achille Lauro was seized off Port Said by terrorists, and before they surrendered, they murdered a passenger, 69-year-old Leon Klinghoffer of New York City.

"It seemed like the media was trying to make a comparison between Alex and Klinghoffer," Sami Odeh said. "What happened to both of them was awful, but different.

"When you travel in the Middle East, you are prepared for the danger. You almost expect it. But this was the first time in Orange County that a man kissed his wife goodby, drove to the office and it explodes as you open the door."

Times Staff Writer Doug Brown contributed to this article.

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