A former college classmate of alleged Boston Marathon bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was arraigned in federal court Tuesday on charges of obstructing justice in the investigation, believes Tsarnaev is guilty, said the student’s father.
Amir Ismagulov, father of Azamat Tazhayakov, said his son is not among the group of Tsarnaev’s friends who believe that Tsarnaev has been framed. Ismagulov said his son has concluded that Tsarnaev planted the bombs that killed three people and wounded more than 260 on April 15.
“He believes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did this,” the father said in Russian, through his lawyer who acted as a translator, after the arraignment Tuesday. “He is the killer.”
Meanwhile, his son and Dias Kadyrbayev, another classmate from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that they obstructed justice by taking evidence from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room, including his laptop and a backpack containing fireworks, on the night he went on the run.
Dressed in orange prison jumpsuits, their legs shackled, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both from Kazakhstan, looked nothing like photos of them that have circulated in the past few months. In one of those images, they appeared, alongside Tsarnaev, enjoying a trip to Times Square in New York City. In another, one of the defendant’s appears to be sitting down at a homemade meal at one of their homes.
The US District Court hearing was brief, with each defendant saying “not guilty” to the charges. Tazhayakov’s mother and siblings were also present, as well as Kadyrbayev’s father. At some point during the proceedings, the defendants waved and smiled to their family.
Prosecutors told the judge they expect the trial to last two weeks, with a potential list of at least 15 witnesses.
Kadyrbayev’s attorney, Robert G. Stahl, said in a statement that his client was a “law-abiding college student whose only crime was befriending a fellow student who spoke his more comfortable native language.”
Stahl also said that even though Kadyrbayev came from “a former Soviet-bloc region where police are routinely distrusted,” he had “fully cooperated” with authorities and answered the FBI’s questions for nearly 12 hours over two days without a lawyer or a Kazakh consular official present.
The pair were arraigned before US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler. They could get five to 25 years in prison and are being held at the Essex County jail in Middleton.
A third college friend of Tsarnaev, Robel Phillipos, a fellow graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin, faces federal charges of lying to investigators, though court papers filed last week said Phillipos is “engaged in negotiations aimed at possible resolution of this matter.”
A federal grand jury indicted Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov last week for taking evidence from Tsarnaev’s room at the UMass Dartmouth, tossing some in the trash and watching a rubbish truck take it away. They allegedly acted after authorities had publicly identified Tsarnaev as a suspect.
Among the items taken was a backpack containing fireworks. The fireworks containers had been opened and manipulated, according to the indictment. The indictment also said a jar of Vaseline was found, and the indictment states that Kadyrbayev believed Tsarnaev had used Vaseline to make bombs.
Defense lawyers have said that Tsarnaev’s laptop was not discarded and that when law enforcement asked for the computer, they readily complied and handed it over.
The indictment revealed for the first time the exact language used in one of the text messages Kadyrbayev allegedly received from Tsarnaev on the night of April 18, while he was on the run. Kadyrbayev also allegedly showed this text message to Tazhayakov. It read: “If yu [sic] want yu [sic] can go to my room and take what’s there [symbol of smiley face] but ight [sic] bro [sic] Salam aleikum.”
The final two words refer to a traditional Muslim traditional greeting meaning “peace to you.”
Tazhayakov’s father laughed when asked about that greeting and his son’s connection to Islam.
He insisted his son is innocent and that his son had none of the radical Muslim political thinking that Tsarnaev allegedly had and was raised in a “liberal traditional Islam” family.