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Arrest in Attacks on Turkish Targets

October 16, 1999|From From Staff and Wire Reports

A prominent Armenian American activist has been charged with plotting attacks on Turkish targets in the United States for two decades, including a bombing that injured three in 1980.

The indictment of Mourad Topalian, 56, by the U.S. attorney in Cleveland also mentions two California bombings but does not say if he was involved. A June 1981 blast at the Anaheim Convention Center blew out the doors and windows during a Turkish folk dancing troupe's appearance, but no one was injured.

The other California incident was at the Turkish consulate in Beverly Hills. An agent in the FBI's Santa Ana office said he did not know why the California bombings were mentioned but said information related to a pattern of crimes is sometimes brought out at trial. He said the statute of limitations in the Anaheim case has passed.

Topalian, 56, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, was arrested Thursday in Cleveland on conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges. He could face 31 years in prison if convicted. He pleaded not guilty and was freed on $100,000 bond. Topalian returned to U.S. District Court on Friday to surrender his passport. He declined to comment after a brief hearing.

The indictment accuses him of directing a group whose members called their efforts "the Cause," which stole weapons and explosives used in a 1980 car bombing outside the Turkish mission to the United Nations in New York, where three people were hurt.

The indictment said the attacks were aimed at drawing attention to Armenian claims that 1.5 million people were slaughtered in 1915 as part of a campaign of genocide aimed at forcing Armenians from the eastern Ottoman Empire. Turkey says there was no systematic campaign of slaughter and that many Armenians fled during World War I and the civil unrest that followed.

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