Boston police on Wednesday charged two people with conspiring to obstruct justice and another with making false statements to the authorities as part of the investigation into the deadly bomb attack at the Boston Marathon on April 15.
Police on Wednesday arrested three college friends of surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are accused of removing potentially incriminating evidence from Tsarnaev's dorm room following the attack in order to protect him.
Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured on April 15 when two bombs exploded near the marathon’s finish line. One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after a gunfight with police several days after the attack. His younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured the following day and lies in a prison hospital.
Two of the three young men arrested Wednesday, Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, are from Kazakhstan and have been charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. They face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the Justice Department said. A third man, American Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements to federal investigators. He faces up to eight years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to AFP.
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The three 19-year-old college friends removed a backpack containing fireworks emptied of gunpowder from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s university dorm room three days after the attack, according to the charges.
The affidavit says Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev agreed to get rid of the backpack at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth after deducing from news reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was one of the bombers. The backpack was later found in a landfill by law enforcement officers.
The two Kazakh men appeared in court to hear the charges on Wednesday afternoon. They did not request bail and will be held until another hearing on May 14. Phillipos is expected to go before a judge on Monday.
“These are very serious charges,” said FRANCE 24’s Boston correspondent Phillip Crowther. “We’re looking at people who have been arrested in conjunction with what happened after the bombing.”
More information on who and why?
“The big unknown is still where the inspiration [behind the bombing] came from, whether there might have been inspiration from abroad and who might have helped before the bombings,” Crowther added. “These are the kind of people who might be able to give us a little more information.”
Former FBI investigator Jack Cloonan believes that the police may be planning to bring charges against the three men in an attempt to find out if they are hiding further links to the Boston attack.
In an interview with FRANCE 24, he said that while that there is currently nothing to suggest anyone other than the Tsarnaev brothers carried out the bombing, investigators cannot be “absolutely certain that these three people haven’t been involved”.
“There’s always the prospect out there that one, two, three of them may have provided some level of support to either brother, unwitting or otherwise, and if they have they face even more serious charges that could fall under the realm of material support for terrorism,” said Cloonan.
A look at the brothers suspected in the Boston bombing
The suspect’s brother, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev have been held in jail for more than a week on allegations that they violated their student visas while attending college. Linda Cristello, the Boston attorney who represented them at a hearing on the immigration case Wednesday morning, confirmed earlier that they were facing separate federal charges.
All three men charged Wednesday began attending University of Massachusetts with Tsarnaev at the same time in 2011, the FBI affidavit says.
Authorities allege that on the night of April 18, after the FBI released photos of the bombing suspects and the three men suspected their friend was one of them, they went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room. The men noticed a backpack containing fireworks, which had been opened and emptied of powder.
Covering up evidence
The FBI said that Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the empty fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings and decided to remove the backpack from the room "in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble." He also decided to remove Tsarnaev’s laptop, the FBI said in the affidavit.
“This means they already knew that he’d been identified as one of the suspects and then decided to get rid of some of the evidence,” said FRANCE 24’s Phillip Crowther.
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After the three men returned to Kadyrbayev’s and Tazhayakov’s apartment with the backpack and computer, they watched news reports featuring photographs of Tsarnaev. The affidavit says Kadyrbayev told authorities the three men then "collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble."
Kadyrbayev said he placed the backpack and fireworks along with trash from the apartment into a large trash bag and threw it into a garbage bin near the men’s apartment.
Meanwhile, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s relatives will claim his body now that his wife has agreed to release it, an uncle said. The body of Tsarnaev, 26, has been at the medical examiner’s office in Massachusetts since he died after a gunfight with authorities on April 18.
Police said Tsarnaev ran out of ammunition before his 19-year-old brother dragged his body under a vehicle while fleeing the scene. His cause of death has been determined but will not be made public until his remains are claimed.
"Of course, family members will take possession of the body," uncle Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland said Tuesday night. "We’ll do it. We will do it. A family is a family."
He would not elaborate. Tsarnaev’s parents are still in Russia, but he has other relatives on his side of the family in the US, including Tsarni.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-05-01