The great-uncle of alleged Boston Marathon terror bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said today from Russia that the Tsarnaev family doesn’t trust the investigation that led to 30 federal charges — and the possibility of the death penalty — for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
“How do I feel about this?” Dzhamal Tsarnaev said in a telephone interview conducted in Russian. “There is no real evidence against Dzhokhar. The whole world knows that he is innocent.”
“Dzhokhar’s parents are shocked and are in complete disbelief. Zubeidat [Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s mother] can’t even talk about this. She is in complete shock,” he said.
Heda Saratova, a human rights activist based in Chechnya who is close to the family, said Zubeidat and her husband, Anzor Tsarnaev, had been advised by their lawyers not to comment to the press about the case.
The Department of Justice said Thursday it would seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the attacks on April 15 that killed three people, injured more than 260, and shocked the nation.
Tsarnaev, 20, allegedly planted the two bombs that exploded near the race’s finish line with his brother, Tamerlan, 26. The older brother was killed in a confrontation with police in Watertown several days later as the brothers tried to flee the area. The younger brother initially eluded a dragnet but was found hiding in a boat stored in a nearby back yard.
The two brothers also allegedly murdered an MIT police officer. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces state murder charges in that case. The maximum penalty in that case would be life without parole; the state does not have the death penalty.
Prosecutors have said that Tsarnaev downloaded extremist Islamic propaganda from the Internet and, in a confession written on the inside of the boat where he was captured, was critical of the US government “killing our innocent civilians.”
Officer Richard Donohue, an MBTA police officer who was seriously wounded by a gunshot during the Watertown confrontation, issued a statement after the death penalty announcement Thursday, saying it “reflects an important step in the judicial process.”
“I am confident that various aspects of the law and pertinent information available were weighed in making the decision to pursue the death penalty in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. As we await the trial, I hope all those affected by the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings continue to heal both physically and emotionally,” he said.Anush Elbakyan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Anushelb