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US bends on Tsarnaev’s visitor restrictions

Prosecutors said in a filing Wednesday that in the future they will station an impartial federal agent not involved with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation in the room where the family of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev visits him in prison.

The government’s filing comes two weeks after defense lawyers argued in an April 16 hearing that Tsarnaev, who is being held in the federal prison at Fort Devens in Ayer, should be allowed to speak to his family without an FBI agent present. At that hearing, US District Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. delayed making a final decision, but advised authorities that they could remove the agent entirely or replace the agent with someone not involved in the case.

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The visitor restriction is one of several “special administrative measures” that the government put in place on Tsarnaev, 20. The measures limit who from the defense team can visit or communicate with Tsarnaev and what information they can share with him or others.

His lawyers have repeatedly sought to reduce those restrictions, which they say are unnecessarily burdensome and might allow the prosecution to eavesdrop on their case preparation.

In their latest response, prosecutors said Tsarnaev should not be allowed to speak to his family, specifically his sisters, without supervision, because he could provide them with information to transmit to other people that he is not allowed to speak to.

Prosecutors wrote that Tsarnaev’s mother, who is now in Dagestan, “twice mentioned to Tsarnaev in phone calls he made to her from FMC-Devens that close friends of Tamerlan’s, his late brother, are with her. She has indicated her awareness that Tsarnaev’s sisters are visiting him.

“Although these calls do not themselves constitute forbidden communications, they raise the possibility that Tsarnaev’s sisters might, perhaps unwittingly, be used to pass or receive forbidden communications from Tsarnaev,” prosecutors wrote.

Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at zachary.sampson@
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