22 Apr 2013

Boston: bomb suspect charged in his hospital bed

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston bombing suspect, is charged in connection with the attacks. The White House says he will not be tried as an enemy combatant.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, remains in hospital in Boston after he was captured on Friday night following a manhunt which shut down much of the city for almost 20 hours. The FBI said he was still in a “serious” condition.

He has now been charged by federal authorities, who came to the Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Centre along with a magistrate judge, with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, resulting in death.

The crime does carry the death penalty, although the Boston Globe reports that the Obama administration has not yet decided whether to seek that ultimate punishment.

From the affadavit filed with the complaint: chilling details of the moment of attack – this, on the first explosion. “Bomber two, virtually alone among the individuals in front of the restaurant, appears calm.”

It goes on to claim that after the first blast, the second bomber left his bag on the ground, walked west for ten seconds, then his bag exploded.

The document states that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had his college ID and credit cards in his pocket when he was arrested. He apparently had gunshot wounds to his head, neck, legs and hand.

Alongside his brother Tamerlan, 26, Dzhokhar is suspected of carrying out last week’s Boston bombings last week which killed three people and injured many more.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died during the police manhunt last week: this latest indictment states that police found another pressure cooker bomb, similar to the marathon devices, at the scene of the shoot-out.

Police have so far declined to comment on reports that Dzokhar has begun communicating with a team of federal investigators, mostly in writing because of a serious throat wound which prevents him from speaking.

Boston police commissioner Ed Davis told CNN: “We’re anxious to talk to him and the investigators will be doing that as soon as possible.”

The White House confirmed that Tsarnaev will be tried as a US citizen, not as an enemy combatant. Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters: “We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice. Under US law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions.”

FBI questions

According to NBC, a “special high value detainee interrogation team” is speaking to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It says that under a “public safety exemption”, the team is not obliged to inform him about his right to remain silent.

The authorities are not seeking any one else in connection with the bombings, although questions remain over what the FBI knew about the brothers, and when.

Film-maker Nick Sturdee has told Channel 4 News he learned from a neighbour of the brothers’ parents that Dzkokhar had returned to Dagestan from the United States last year.

On Sunday, Channel 4 News spoke to Anzor Tsarnaev, the father of the pair, who said that his son Tamerlan had been contacted by the FBI and accused of the attacks. However, the FBI said late on Sunday that it had not contacted Tamerlan.

The suspects’ mother, Zubedit Tsarnaeva, told reporters that their father plans to fly to the United States on Wednesday. Anzor Tsarnaev told the AP he had “lots of questions for the police” and wanted to “clear up many things”. The family could also try to bring their son’s body back to Russia.

Boston marathon bombings latest (Getty)

More detailed accounts of the family are beginning to emerge. According to an in depth report in the Wall Street Journal, Zubedit persuaded Tamerlan to develop an interest in religion in order to prevent him straying into a life of drugs, alcohol and girls.

The paper reports that Tamerlan grew more intense and confrontational about Islam, picking arguments in public and even in the mosque which he attended: arguments which eventually drew him to the attention of the FBI.

Son ‘turned to religion’

According to the WSJ, Mrs Tsarnaeva said her older son was defiant when the agents came to call. She said he told them: “I am in a country that gives me the right to read whatever I want and watch whatever I want.” And, she went on: “He was even trying to get the FBI (agent) to convert to Islam.”

Th US Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing into questions surrounding the way the FBI has handled its investigation, which could be as early as Tuesday.

The authorities are also looking into concerns from some of Tamerlan’s former class-mates that he may have been involved in a triple murder in 2011, including the death of Brendan Mess – his closest American friend.

They were surprised when Tsarnaev failed to turn up to his friend’s funeral or memorial service. No suspect has ever been named in the murders, and police have kept the case open.

Tamerlan’s estranged wife, Katherine Russell, has also issued a statement through her family solicitor – saying she did not notice any troubling changes in him directly before the attack. So far she has not spoken to the authorities, who are now discussing how to proceed.

A private funeral has been held for 29 year old Krystle Campbell, one of the three who died in the attacks. Massachussetts governor Deval Patrick has asked the people of Boston to observe a moment of silence at 2.50pm local time on Monday, exactly a week after the first bomb exploded: bells will ring across the state as a mark of respect.

Hospital officials said eleven victims are still being treated in hospital: one critical, three in a serious condition. They said the entire community had been affected by the tragedy, from the wounded to first responders, from eye-witnesses to those who watched the events unfold on TV.

Recovery from such a trauma, they warned, would be a marathon.