In Trial Of Marathon Bombing Suspect’s Friend, FBI Said Tsarnaev’s Life Was ‘Effectively Over’

Daniel Lovering
Reuters | 07/14/2014

BOSTON, July 14 (Reuters) – An FBI agent who interrogated a friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber testified on Monday that he had told the friend that the bomber’s life was "effectively over."
Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, is the first of three friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to face trial on charges of interfering with the investigation by going to the suspect’s dorm room and removing a laptop and backpack containing empty fireworks casings three days after the April 15, 2013, attacks.
FBI special agent John Walker led a search of an apartment in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Tazhayakov lived with fellow Kazakh exchange student Dias Kadyrbayev four days after the bombing attack that killed three people and injured 264.
Walker has said he was pursuing a lead that Tsarnaev was hiding out at the apartment, but the lead turned out to be false. At the time, the bureau was concerned that other conspirators may have been involved in the bombing plot. Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan, also a suspect in the bombing, was killed hours earlier after a shootout with police.

On Monday, Walker testified he arrived at the apartment after perhaps more than 60 heavily armed law enforcement officials had ordered the roommates and a woman identified as Kadyrbayev’s girlfriend out of the apartment through a loudspeaker.
Tazhayakov was sitting in the back of a police car, handcuffed, with his shirt removed because "my colleagues were concerned anyone exiting that apartment might be bearing explosives on their person," he said. Walker said he asked Tazhayakov about any possible threats in the apartment because his colleagues would be entering it.
"In an effort to elicit truthful info on an immediate basis, I told him Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life was effectively over, whether he was still living or going away," Walker said as the second week of the trial got under way. "I told the defendant that the defendant’s life did not need to be over."
He said Tazhayakov agreed to go with authorities to a state police barracks where he was questioned. Hours later, early the next morning, Walker said he recalled the defendant saying, "I’m beginning to think we’re being held against our will."
"I told him he was entirely free to go, that there was a cab waiting out front," Walker said.

Tazhayakov’s attorneys argued before the trial that their client’s statements during that interview, which began April 19 and ran into the next morning, should not be admitted at trial because he had not believed he was free to go at the time.
Walker has said he interviewed Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, and a third person he described as Kadyrbayev’s girlfriend.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, as well as Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, have been charged with hindering the probe into the bombing attack.
Tazhayakov could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Kadyrbayev faces the same charges. Phillipos is accused of the lesser charge of lying to investigators.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Doina Chiacu)


Tsarnaev friend’s FBI interviews were voluntary, judge rules
Zachary T. Sampson
Boston Globe | July 15, 2014

A federal judge today rejected claims that Azamat Tazhayakov was forced to speak to authorities against his will when they asked him last year about his college friend, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tazhayakov is charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly working with two other friends to impede the investigation into the April 15, 2013, bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

Authorities said Tazhayakov helped remove a backpack containing fireworks, a laptop, and several other items from Tsarnaev’s University of Massachusetts Dartmouth dorm room. Investigators later found the bag in a New Bedford landfill.

Officers who detained Tazhayakov at his apartment were “in SWAT gear pointing lasers at him,” said defense lawyer Diane Ferrone. They held him for questioning at a local barracks for hours without a shirt, she said.

“He was never in a position where he was free to leave, and he was never speaking to the agents voluntarily,” Ferrone argued.

But US District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock rejected the defense team’s attempt to have Tazhayakov’s statements thrown out. The judge said that “if he’d asked,” Tazhayakov “was free to leave.”

“Was the nature of the investigation more rugged than it needed to have been? That’s not a question that I think I may properly answer,” Woodlock said from the bench.

The decision came during a brief hearing in US District Court in Boston today to clear up final issues before closing arguments to the jury, which are set for Wednesday. Attorneys jousted a little over the wording of specific instructions and questions that will be put before the jury tomorrow.

Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Tazhayakov’s lawyers, who rested their case Monday without calling any witnesses, said they were “confidently optimistic” as the trial nears its end.

Jurors heard from about 15 witnesses, more than half of whom were FBI agents.

Tazhayakov is one of three college friends of Tsarnaev — all of whom pleaded not guilty — accused of hindering the probe into the bombing.

According to testimony, Tazhayakov’s off-campus roommate, Dias Kadyrbayev, went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room at UMass Dartmouth hours after the FBI released photos of the bombing suspects, and took Tsarnaev’s backpack, containing manipulated fireworks, and a laptop, among other items, allegedly in response to a text from Tsarnaev saying, “yu can go to my room and take what’s there.”

Tazhayakov and another friend, Robel Phillipos, later joined Kadyrbayev in the dorm room, according to testimony. Hours later, Kadyrbayev allegedly discarded the backpack in a Dumpster behind the New Bedford apartment he shared with Tazhayakov.

Defense attorneys say that Tazhayakov had nothing to do with the removal and disposal of the backpack, and did not suspect that his close friend, Tsarnaev, could be behind the horrific bombing.

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, charged with obstruction of justice, face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Phillipos, 20, of Cambridge, faces charges of lying to investigators about his whereabouts that night and could face an eight-year sentence if found guilty.

Tsarnaev is scheduled to go to trial in November, and faces the death penalty, if convicted. He and his older brother, Tamerlan, also allegedly killed an MIT police officer. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police in the early morning hours of April 19.

John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


EU imposes sanctions on more Ukraine rebels

Alexander Borodai, leader of Donetsk ‘republic’, and 10 others face travel bans and asset freezes as clashes continue in east
Chris Johnston
Guardian | 12 July 2014

The European Union has imposed travel bans and asset freezes on the Ukrainian separatist leader Alexander Borodai and 10 other rebels as residents of Donetsk flee amid fears of further attacks on the rebel stronghold.

The move came as the Ukrainian government claimed that air strikes had killed hundreds of rebel fighters in retaliation for the 23 soldiers killed by a missile strike on Friday.

Andriy Lysenko, a military spokesman, said fighter jets had struck a rebel base near Perevalsk, north of Donetsk, leaving "about 500" rebel fighters dead and destroying two tanks and 10 armoured vehicles. Further strikes had also destroyed a significant rebel base near Dzerzhinsk.

Rebel representatives denied that they had suffered big losses. "There were no volunteers [rebels] where the Ukrainian aviation was active yesterday," a spokeswoman said.

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, had pledged to "find and destroy" the rebels responsible for the missile attack at Zelenopillya, which also injured more than 120 troops.

The EU said Borodai was "responsible for the separatist ‘governmental’ activities of the so-called ‘government of the Donetsk People’s Republic’".

The 41-year-old Russian citizen claimed in May that he was a political adviser who helped in Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea in March and then moved to eastern Ukraine to help separatists there. He denied any links to Moscow.

Others on the EU blacklist include Alexander Khodakovsky, a defector from the Ukrainian state security service who now commands rebels, and Nikolay Kozitsyn, identified by the EU as another rebel commander.

Kiev has denounced them as terrorists and accused Russia of backing the rebellion in east Ukraine, where hundreds have died in clashes between rebels and government forces.

The additional names take the number of people under EU sanctions to 72, as well as two energy companies in Crimea.

When the sanctions were announced last week, Russia said they would damage ties with Europe.

The EU trade chief, Karel de Gucht, held talks with Russian and Ukrainian officials in Brussels on Friday and told Moscow the sanctions were not intended to damage the Russian economy.

European leaders said late last month that the EU would consider imposing more sanctions on Moscow unless pro-Russian rebels stopped their action in eastern Ukraine and began negotiations on implementing Poroshenko’s peace plan.

The president’s militant language convinced some residents of Donetsk – the new home to a flood of gunmen who have been abandoning surrounding cities since last weekend – that their city was about to be bombed. Almost 550 people have been killed in the conflict that erupted three months ago and has sparked the biggest east-west crisis since the cold war.

Ukraine says it has made gains against rebels as Russia ‘considers strikes’

Government forces have broken through blockade near rebel-held city of Luhansk, says Ukrainian president
Agence France-Presse | 14 July 2014

Ukrainian troops say they have made gains around one of the main remaining separatist strongholds, as Moscow reportedly weighed up "targeted" cross-border strikes following the alleged deadly shelling of a Russian town.

Ukraine’s western-backed president, Petro Poroshenko, said government forces had managed to break through a blockade by pro-Moscow rebels to reach soldiers camped out at the strategic airport in the insurgent-held bastion of Luhansk.

The industrial hub of 425,000 people is the capital of one of the rebels’ two self-declared "people’s republics" and – along with million-strong Donetsk – now finds itself in the cross-hairs of Kiev’s reinvigorated military push to quash the three-month insurgency tearing apart the former Soviet state.

The defence ministry said on Monday that Ukrainian jets had carried out five air strikes against separatist positions close to Luhansk, but there was no confirmation of rebel claims that Kiev had massed tanks in the outskirts in preparation for a major push into the city.

Local authorities said three people had been killed and 14 wounded in various incidents around the city over the past 24 hours, adding to a bloody weekend that saw one of the highest two-day civilian tolls so far in the conflict, which has now claimed about 550 lives.

Ukraine’s army has also seen its losses spike in recent days after militias – which the west and Kiev allege are being armed by the Kremlin – killed 19 soldiers and wounded 100 more in a multiple-rocket attack late on Friday.

The military losses have profoundly dented emerging hopes in Kiev that its recent string of battlefield successes had finally convinced the rebels to sue for peace.

The conflict risked spiralling even further amid reports that Moscow was considering strikes against Ukrainian positions after a shell allegedly crossed the border and killed a Russian civilian on Sunday.

The well-connected Russian daily Kommersant cited a source close to the Kremlin as saying that Moscow was weighing up "targeted retaliatory strikes", but was not planning any large-scale action.

"Our patience is not limitless," the source said, adding that Russia "knows exactly where they [Ukrainians] are firing from".

Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of shelling across the border but Sunday’s incident saw the first claim of a fatality and the Russian foreign ministry said the incident risked "irreversible consequences".

Kiev has denied that its forces were behind the shelling and on Sunday Poroshenko called on the west to condemn "attacks by Russian soldiers on positions held by Ukrainian servicemen" in a phone conversation with the European council president, Herman van Rompuy.

Poroshenko has previously vowed to kill "hundreds" of gunmen for every lost soldier and ordered an airtight military blockade of Luhansk and Donetsk.

European leaders responded by joining forces with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in an effort to persuade Poroshenko to put the brakes on violence first sparked by the ousting in February of the Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych and fanned by Russia’s subsequent seizure of Crimea.

Hopes of a truce rested on a meeting between Putin and Poroshenko – the second since the Ukrainian president’s May election – that seemed on the cards on the sidelines of the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro.

But the Ukrainian presidency said on Sunday that Poroshenko had been forced to cancel his attendance "considering the situation currently happening in Ukraine".

Putin instead met the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for talks the Kremlin said had ended with a call on the warring sides to issue "a statement as soon as possible concerning a ceasefire, a prisoner swap, and the return of [international] monitors" to eastern Ukraine.

A German government spokesman said Putin and Merkel had suggested Kiev and the separatists could launch their discussions by video conference.


Kremlin dismisses direct strikes against Ukraine, but debate still rages in Russia
Fred Weir, Correspondent
The Christian Science Monitor | July 14, 2014

Russian leadership is of two minds on how to respond to the ongoing fighting in Ukraine, which crossed the border over the weekend. But ‘surgical strikes’ appear to be off the table.

Two Russian armored personal carriers roll near the border with Ukraine in the Rostov-on-Don region on Sunday. Russia’s foreign ministry said Sunday that a Ukrainian shell hit a town on the Russian border, killing one person and seriously injuring two others. But Ukraine denied firing a shell into Russian territory. Sergei Pivovarov/AP

Moscow — A day after Ukrainian forces allegedly shelled a Russian border village, killing one person, the Kremlin appears to be preparing a tough response.

But "surgical strikes" against Ukrainian military forces deemed responsible for the attacks, as claimed by an anonymous Kremlin official in the major Moscow daily Kommersant? That’s "nonsense," Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said on Monday.

Experts say the conflicting signals coming out of the Kremlin show just how at odds it is with itself over what to do in eastern Ukraine, as conditions deteriorate and ferocious fighting bumps up against the long and relatively open border with Russia.

One faction, they say, advocates direct Russian action to support east Ukraine’s beleaguered rebels – either by imposing a no-fly zone over the embattled region, or through pinpoint attacks on Ukrainian artillery units that are accused of firing on Ukrainian civilians and, occasionally, Russian ones too.

"When Israel reacts to provocations with an all-out attack on Gaza, the world is quite understanding about that," says Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Kremlin-funded Institute of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Moscow. "But Russia is supposed to sit back and take it? Our investigators have found shell fragments in the village that was attacked, and we know that only Ukrainian forces have artillery of this caliber. Russia is a great power, and it doesn’t have to put up with this sort of thing in its backyard."

The other Kremlin faction, which appears to have the upper hand at the moment, favors caution. They argue that direct Russian intervention would only give Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko the rallying point he wants, and a winning argument for greater Western assistance. Instead, they say, Russia holds most of the cards in any long-term settlement for Ukraine. Moscow can afford to wait as the Poroshenko government muddles through what promises to be a long and bloody counter-insurgency in the country’s east, even as Ukraine careens toward economic implosion.

"The Kremlin does not have a master plan for what to do in Ukraine; it’s mostly reacting to events," says Andrei Kortunov, director of the Russian International Affairs Council, a think tank with strong connections to the Russian Foreign Ministry. "The dominant view right now is that we should let Poroshenko reap the consequences of the military campaign he chose to embark on. It’s easy to start a conflict like this, very hard to finish it up."

Mr. Kortunov says that Russia needs to stress its role as a diplomatic player, and as the huge neighbor Ukraine needs to rebuild its shattered economy and reconcile with embittered eastern Ukrainians.

"The pendulum will swing back in Ukraine, perhaps in unexpected ways. Russia can afford to wait," he says.

Kiev denies that its forces shelled the Russian border village Sunday and insists that it was the work of pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian defense officials warn that Russia is stepping up "provocations" on the frontier, and has been allowing ever more pro-rebel volunteers and military equipment to cross into the embattled territory from Russia. Ukraine’s best-known military expert, Dmitry Tymchuk, predicted on his Facebook page today that all signs point to a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on Tuesday.

"Opinion in Russia is badly split over what to do about this. But so far, despite all the growing pressures, it seems that Putin has decided that the long-term price of intervening directly is too high," says Dmitry Polikanov, vice president of the PIR Center, an independent security think tank in Moscow.

"It’s not just that our relations with the West would be greatly aggravated, it’s also that we can’t really afford the costs of peace-building in eastern Ukraine afterwards," Mr. Polikanov says. "Our best option now is to strengthen the border, and wait to see what will happen next. The ball is in Poroshenko’s court."

Tsarnaev friend told FBI of suspect’s violent tendencies

Patricia Wen
Boston Globe | July 10, 2014

A former student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth recounted to the FBI last year several instances when his college friend Dzhokhar Tsarnaev showed violent tendencies, although he also said that he never imagined that Tsarnaev would ignite powerful bombs to kill and maim, according to testimony Thursday in the student’s trial on obstruction-of-justice charges.

Azamat Tazhayakov, 20, allegedly told federal agents that Tsarnaev spoke last year of knowing how to make homemade bombs, owning BB guns, and visiting a shooting range with his brother, Tamerlan.

But Tazhayakov, a 20-year-old from Kazakhstan, said in a text message April 19, 2013, that he was stunned to see the FBI link his friend to that week’s deadly Boston Marathon explosions, which killed three and injured more than 260. Tazhayakov believed that his friend had to be under the spell of Tamerlan, who had become immersed in a radical form of Islam and once gave Tazhayakov a book on the religion.

“I think that it’s all his brother’s fault. . . . He brainwashed him,” Tazhayakov wrote in another text that same day.

The evidence is part of conflicting portraits of the young foreign student presented to jurors as his trial nears the end of its first full week. Prosecutors depicted Tazhayakov as willfully blind to Tsarnaev’s violent tendencies, saying he and his off-campus roommate decided to take incriminating evidence from Tsarnaev’s dorm room when they realized he was a fugitive.

Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both natives of Kazakhstan who shared an apartment in New Bedford, are charged with obstructing justice by taking Tsarnaev’s backpack, containing manipulated fireworks, and a laptop from his dorm room on the night of April 18, hours after the FBI released photos of the Marathon bombing suspects. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

A third college friend of Tsarnaev’s, Robel Phillipos, is also charged in the case. While he was present in Tsarnaev’s dorm room the night the items were allegedly taken, he faces the less serious charge of lying to investigators about his whereabouts that night. He faces up to eight years in prison.

Each defendant is being tried separately, with Tazhayakov’s trial starting first.

Responding to questions from Assistant US Attorney John Capin, FBI agent Farbod Azad testified that Tazhayakov admitted to investigators that he played a role in removing the items, even as he denies that now. While the defense has argued that Kadyrbayev alone removed the items, Azad said Tazhayakov used words like we when referring to the removal of the backpack and laptop in interrogations shortly after Tsarnaev was arrested.

Prosecutors also showed jurors extensive records of Tazhayakov’s Internet searches on April 18 and 19, 2013, to suggest that he was consumed by news of the bombing and looking up articles about Tsarnaev. They suggested that the Internet searches showed Tazhayakov’s mind-set when he allegedly agreed with a plan to throw the backpack into a dumpster behind the New Bedford apartment.

But Tazhayakov’s defense attorneys insist their client is innocent, saying he was unaware of Kadyrbayev’s actions that night. They have also criticized the FBI agents who investigated the case for not videotaping their interviews with Tazhayakov, relying instead on memory or incomplete written notes to recall what he allegedly said when interrogated.

Tazhayakov’s lawyers have emphasized that their client sometimes had to consult a Russian-English dictionary on his phone to grasp for words when he was being interrogated, and that language misunderstandings probably happened. They have also argued that Tazhayakov’s Internet searches are not a sign of guilt, as millions of people across the country were also immersed in the minute-to-minute unfolding of the investigation. And while he was searching the Internet for news of the bombings, they said, he also called up a campus website for a homework assignment.

Still, prosecutors say, the text messages and Web searches reveal what Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev knew on April 18 and 19, 2013, when they allegedly acted to protect Tsarnaev, who was later captured in a boat parked in the driveway of a Watertown home. Tsarnaev, whose trial is scheduled for November, faces a possible death penalty if convicted.

Tazhayakov’s digital trail perhaps reveals one new concern that was on his mind by April 20, 2013, as he was on the verge of being arrested on a visa violation, a prelude to the more serious charges he now faces.

According to government exhibits, Tazhayakov searched at least two websites around noon that day, the search term being: Miranda warning.


Prosecutor: Tsarnaev said martyrs go to heaven
AP | July 7, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told a friend a month before the deadly attack that he knew how to make a bomb and said it’s good to be a martyr because you "die with a smile on your face and go straight to heaven," a U.S. prosecutor told jurors Monday at the friend’s obstruction trial.

Tsarnaev also texted the friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, 90 minutes after the bombings and said, "Don’t go thinking it’s me," Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann said.

Siegmann’s comments came during opening statements at Tazhayakov’s trial, which promises to provide a glimpse into the government’s case against Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev is scheduled to go on trial in November on charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty. Prosecutors say he and his older brother, Tamerlan, built two bombs and placed them near the finish line of the 2013 marathon to retaliate against the U.S. for its actions in Muslim countries. The explosions killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police several days later.

Tazhayakov, 20, has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges. He and his roommate, Dias Kadyrbayev, went to Tsarnaev’s university dorm room several days after the bombing and took a laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks that had black powder spilling out or had been emptied of their powder, Siegmann told the jury.

"The government will prove to you that the defendant and his co-conspirator removed the backpack for one reason, and that reason was to protect their friend who they had just learned was one of the two suspected marathon bombers," Siegmann said.

Prosecutors acknowledge that Kadyrbayev is the one who actually put the backpack in the trash but said Tazhayakov agreed to get rid of it.

She described a conversation Tsarnaev had with Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev a month before the bombings while they ate together at a restaurant.

"Tsarnaev told the defendant and Kadyrbayev that it was good to die as a shaheed, or a martyr, as you would die with a smile on your face and go straight to heaven," she said.

During that same meal, Siegmann said, Tsarnaev also told his friends he knew how to make a bomb and went on to list the ingredients, including gunpowder or explosive powder like what was found in the fireworks inside the backpack.

Tazhayakov’s defense attorney, Nicholas Wooldridge, urged jurors not be swayed by the emotional impact of the marathon bombings. He asked them instead to focus on Tazhayakov’s actions.

"Azamat’s actions will show that he never intended to obstruct justice. As a matter of fact, he never intended to help the bomber himself," Wooldridge said.

Wooldridge said Tazhayakov went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room with Kadyrbayev three days after the bombings and hours after the FBI released video footage and photos of the brothers.

But he said Tazhayakov watched a movie while Kadyrbayev looked around Tsarnaev’s room after receiving a text from Tsarnaev that said, "If you want, you can go to my room and take what’s there," followed by a smiley face, which Wooldridge said was a symbol that meant marijuana to the friends.

Wooldridge said it was Kadyrbayev who threw the backpack away in the trash after his girlfriend learned it belonged to Tsarnaev and told him, "Get it out of the apartment."

"Azamat never even touched that bag," Wooldridge said.

Kadyrbayev’s girlfriend is expected to testify against Tazhayakov under a grant of immunity from prosecutors.

Kadyrbayev faces his own trial in September.


Ex-roommate: Tsarnaev seemed normal after bombings
AP | July 8, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did not seem nervous or agitated in the days after the deadly attack, his former college roommate testified Tuesday during the trial of a Tsarnaev friend accused of obstructing the investigation.

In the few days after the April 2013 bombing, Andrew Dwinells said, Tsarnaev spent much of his time the same way he always did: sleeping, texting and going on his computer.

"He slept a little bit more, but that was it," Dwinells said.

Dwinells’ testimony came during the trial of Azamat Tazhayakov, who is accused with another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, of removing items from Tsarnaev’s University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth dorm room three days after the bombings and hours after the FBI posted video and photos of Tsarnaev as a suspect.

His description of Tsarnaev’s behavior after the bombings was elicited by Tazhayakov’s attorneys during cross-examination and appeared designed to underscore the defense’s contention that none of the people who knew Tsarnaev — including Tazhayakov — had any idea that Tsarnaev was a suspect in the bombings until after the FBI released his photo.

During questioning by prosecutors, Dwinells said he and Tsarnaev shared a room but didn’t talk much and never socialized together.

Dwinells described the night of April 18, 2013, when prosecutors say Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev and another friend went to Tsarnaev’s dorm room after Tsarnaev texted Kadyrbayev and said they could "take what’s there."

Dwinells said a man he later learned was Kadyrbayev "said he needed to get into the room to get something."

After getting a small bag of marijuana out of a desk drawer, Kadyrbayev continued to look around the room for another 10 minutes, but Dwinells said he did not see any other items being taken. Dwinells said the other men — Tazhayakov and Robel Phillipos — sat down and watched TV while Kadyrbayev searched the room.

Prosecutors contend that Tazhayakov agreed with Kadyrbayev’s plan to take a backpack containing altered fireworks and to throw away the items to protect Tsarnaev.

Tazhayakov’s lawyers insist that he sat passively in the dorm room while Kadyrbayev took the backpack and did not participate in the decision to throw it away.

Two bombs placed near the marathon finish line killed three people and injured more than 260.

In other testimony Tuesday, an FBI agent said Tazhayakov initially denied knowing what was in Tsarnaev’s backpack but eventually said he saw fireworks that appeared to have been emptied of powder.

Agent Sara Wood said he told her he said "I agree" when Kadyrbayev suggested throwing away the backpack.

During cross-examination by Tazhayakov’s lawyer, Wood acknowledged that Tazhayakov told her it was Kadyrbayev who actually took the backpack and threw it away.

Tsarnaev is awaiting trial. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Authorities say he and his older brother, Tamerlan, planted the bombs made from pressure cookers. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police several days after the bombings.

Testimony ends in Boston Marathon bombing suspect friend’s trial

Associated Press | July 14, 2014

Azamat Tazhayakov, a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is accused with another friend of removing items from Tsarnaev’s dorm room. Closing arguments in his trial are scheduled for Wednesday.

In this courtroom sketch, defendant Azamat Tazhayakov (l.), a college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is depicted listening to testimony by FBI Special Agent Phil Christiana (r.) during the first day of his federal obstruction of justice trial Monday, July 7, 2014 in Boston. Jane Flavell Collins/AP

Boston — U.S. prosecutors and defense attorneys have rested their cases in the trial of a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Azamat Tazhayakov is charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

Prosecutors ended their case Monday after the testimony of an FBI agent. The defense called no witnesses. Closing arguments in his trial are scheduled for Wednesday.

The Kazakhstan-born Tazhayakov is accused along with another friend of removing a backpack containing altered fireworks from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room several days after the 2013 bombings. Twin bombs placed near the finish line of the marathon killed three people.

The defense maintains that the other friend removed the backpack and fireworks and later threw the items away. Prosecutors say both men shared in the decision to get rid of the items.


Defense rests in Boston Marathon bombing trial
Janelle Lawrence
Bloomberg News | July 15, 2014

BOSTON – A friend of Boston Marathon bombing defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has left his fate to a jury that will have only the prosecution’s evidence to consider when it begins deliberations this week on whether he hindered a probe of the attack.

Defense lawyers for Azamat Tazhayakov called no witnesses after the government rested its case Monday in Boston federal court, leaving closing arguments July 16 as their last chance to argue that prosecutors didn’t prove their case.

“You will not consider the fact the defendant chose not to testify,” Judge Douglas Woodlock admonished the jurors Monday as he described the government’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. He sent the jury home and set closing arguments for July 16.

“The defense has been able to bring up some issues on cross examination and they think, in the grand scheme of things, that’s enough to create reasonable doubt” in the minds of jurors, said Walter Prince, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor who isn’t involved in the case.

Defense attorney Matt Myers said after court that he didn’t call witnesses “because we don’t have the burden of proof.” The defense is comfortable the government’s evidence didn’t prove Tazhayakov obstructed justice, he said.

“It will be up to the jury to decide whether they can rely on these statements that weren’t written down and weren’t signed by my client,” Myers said outside the courthouse.

Tazhayakov, 20, who was a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, is on trial for conspiracy to obstruct justice, a crime with a maximum penalty of 20 years.

The government rested its case after the testimony of FBI agent John Walker, who led a raid on the friend’s off-campus apartment on April 19, 2013, when the FBI thought Tsarnaev might be hiding there.

Walker testified he warned Tazhayakov to cooperate.

Tsarnaev, 20, goes on trial in November and may face the death penalty if convicted for the attack.

Tazhayakov and another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, told the agent after the April 2013 attacks that they had tossed Tsarnaev’s backpack in a garbage receptacle and watched it as it was trucked away, Walker said Monday.

They “immediately and simultaneously” answered his questions, he said.

Kadyrbayev also is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice. A third friend, Robel Phillipos, is charged with making false statements to federal agents, a lesser crime.

In the trial, which started a week ago, agents quoted Tazhayakov as saying he and Kadyrbayev visited Tsarnaev’s residence during the hunt for the bombers after the attack and took away his backpack, a computer, fireworks and a jar of Vaseline.

Tazhayakov said Kadyrbayev picked up a jar of Vaseline and whispered, “I think that he used this to make bombs,” according to FBI testimony.

The backpack and Vaseline were recovered and introduced as prosecution exhibits.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev smiles, goes to college campus gym day after Boston Marathon bombing, new video shows

BY Sasha Goldstein
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS | July 14, 2014

The suspect had not a care in the world, new campus surveillance footage shows, just hours after he allegedly planted bombs at the race finish line on April 15, 2013. The video’s release came on the last day of testimony in the obstruction of justice trial for Tsarnaev’s friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, 20.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev smirks as he checks into a campus gym one day after the Boston Marathon bombing.

He was the most wanted man in the country, but Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had not a care in the world the day after the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing, newly released surveillance video shows.

The 20-year-old terrorism suspect was caught on camera smirking and talking with buddy Azamat Tazhayakov on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus, hours after he allegedly planted two pressure cooker bombs that killed three and injured more than 260 in twin blasts near the race finish line.

The video’s release came Monday as the prosecution rested in the federal trial of Tazhayakov, who is accused of removing a backpack filled with fireworks emptied of black powder from Tsarnaev’s dorm room.

“I think that our attorneys proved that Azamat never threw anything out and he also didn’t give any instructions to anybody to do this,” the 20-year-old’s father told reporters in Russian through an interpreter.

Authorities believe Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, 26, used the powder in their homemade bombs. Tamerlan died in a shootout with cops April 19, hours before his brother was captured by police.

The new minute-long clip shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev nonchalantly swipe his student ID card as he and his pal go to the gym April 16, 2013. Tsarnaev is captured smiling as he speaks to his friend in the soundless footage.

Defense attorneys used a Boston-friendly analogy to describe the case, comparing the two college student’s friendship to that of Patriots players Tom Brady and Aaron Hernandez.

“Aaron Hernandez spent a lot of time with Tom Brady, right? He did, right?” attorney Matthew Myers asked reporters after court Monday, WCVB-TV reported. “Do you think Aaron Hernandez ever had conversations with Tom Brady about what he potentially was doing?”

But prosecutors contended the relationship was very close, so much so that Tazhayakov went with friend Dias Kadyrbayev to grab the backpack and obstruct justice by tossing the evidence in a dumpster as the Tsarnaevs went on the lam.

Tsarnaev’s trial is slated to begin in November.



Video shows Boston marathon bombing suspect day after attack
Fox News | July 15, 2014

This image taken from surveillance video released by federal prosecutors shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Azamat Tazhayakov walking through a building at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth on April 16, 2013, one day after the Boston Marathon bombing (

New video shown at the trial of a friend of alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shows Tsarnaev and a friend entering and exiting a gym on their college’s campus the day after the attack that killed three people and injured 260 others near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Federal prosecutors played the surveillance footage Monday in an attempt to show the close friendship between Tsarnaev and Azamat Tazhayakov, who is accused of obstructing justice by conspiring to destroy property belonging to Tsarnaev, including the alleged bomber’s laptop and a backpack containing fireworks. If convicted, Tazhayakov faces up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors also released a photo showing Tsarnaev, Tazhayakov hanging out with friends in Tazhayakov’s New Bedford apartment just weeks before the bombings.

The prosecution’s last witness against Tazhayakov was FBI Special Agent John Walker, who testified about Tazhayakov’s internet search history after the FBI released suspect images of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev following the April 15, 2013 bombing.

Tazhayakov reportedly looked at numerous stories about the suspects, and at one point even searched his own name on Google.

Defense attorney Matthew Myers said his client was only guilty of being friends with the accused bomber, and pointed to another high profile Massachusetts case to make his point.

"[Former New England Patriots tight end] Aaron Hernandez spent a lot of time with Tom Brady, right? He did, right?" Myers asked reporters outside of court on Monday. "Do you think Aaron Hernandez ever had conversations with Tom Brady about what he was potentially doing? I’m not making an evaluation of his case right now."

The prosecution and defense both rested Monday, with Myers not calling any witnesses for the defense, even though Tazhayakov’s father says his son wanted to testify.

"We didn’t feel like we wanted to start switching the burden of proof. We know when we start putting witnesses on the jury starts focusing on our case. They should be focused on the prosecutor’s case, not ours," Myers said.

The defense has called the credibility of law enforcement officials into question, with Myers claiming that they have repeatedly contradicted themselves on the stand.

Tazhayakov’s father, Amir Ismagulov, says he’s hopeful jurors will do the right thing.

"I believe in the people of Boston and I trust them and I just want to hope that they will make their decision based not on emotions but on common sense and the facts that were proven," he said through a translator outside court Monday.

Lawyers for both sides will be back in court Tuesday to talk about the instructions the judge will give to the jury. After closing arguments on Wednesday morning, the jury gets the case.

Poroshenko Says Russian Officers Fighting Alongside Rebels in Ukraine

Reuters | Jul. 14 2014

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russian military staff officers on Monday of fighting alongside separatists in the east of the country and said a newly-developed Russian missile system was being used against government forces.

Poroshenko was speaking at an emergency meeting of his security chiefs after a weekend of Ukrainian air strikes on rebel positions near the border with Russia and charges by Moscow that Kiev had killed a Russian man with a cross-border shell.

The war of words between Kiev and Moscow and the intense fighting, in which Ukrainian forces say they inflicted heavy losses on the rebels, marks a sharp escalation in the three-month conflict in which several hundred Ukrainian servicemen, civilians and rebels have been killed.

"Information has … been confirmed that Russian staff officers are taking part in military operations against Ukrainian forces," Poroshenko said, adding to his charges on Sunday of movements of heavy military equipment into the country from Russia.

He said Ukrainian forces were now coming under attack from a new Russian missile system and that Ukrainian forces would have change tactics on the border, though he gave no details.

Earlier Monday, Ukraine said its forces had ended a rebel blockade of Luhansk airport.

Ukraine’s military said its warplanes had inflicted heavy losses on the pro-Russian separatists during air strikes on their positions, including an armored convoy that Kiev said had crossed the border from Russia.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office said Kiev would present documentary proof of incursions from Russia to the international community via diplomats on Monday.

Pushing For Sanctions

Poroshenko on Sunday complained of alleged Russian incursions into Ukraine in a telephone call with the European Union’s Herman Van Rompuy with an eye to pushing the 28-member bloc to take further sanctions against Moscow.

The EU — Ukraine’s strategic partner with which it signed a landmark political and trade agreement last month — targeted a group of separatist leaders with travel bans and asset freezes on Saturday but avoided fresh sanctions on Russian business.

But a Ukrainian presidential aide said Kiev-based diplomats would be called in on Monday and informed of facts documenting the passage across the border from Russia of military equipment "used in attacks on our serving forces".

"We have the facts and the testimony which we will show to the international community," the aide, Valery Chaly, said, according to Poroshenko’s website.

In Moscow, the newspaper Kommersant quoted a source close to the Kremlin as saying pinpoint strikes might be carried out in retaliation for the killing of the Russian man in a border town which bears the same name as Ukraine’s main eastern city of Donetsk.

The source said Russia "knew exactly where fire was coming from." He said it would not be a massive action but pinpoint strikes on the positions where the shelling came from.

Russia sent Ukraine a diplomatic note of protest describing the incident as "an aggressive act" against Russia and its citizens and warning of "irreversible consequences".

Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, denied that Ukrainian forces had fired onto Russian territory and on residential areas. The Ukrainian foreign ministry called on Russian authorities to carry out "an objective and impartial" evaluation of what it described as "a tragic incident".

Moscow’s response to the cross-border shelling raises again the prospect of Russian intervention, after weeks in which Russian President Vladimir Putin had appeared intent on disengaging, pulling back tens of thousands of troops he had massed at the frontier.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in April when armed pro-Russian fighters seized towns and government buildings, weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in response to the overthrow of a pro-Moscow president in Kiev.

More than 200 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed in the fighting and several hundred civilians and rebels.