BOSTON (Reuters) - A friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber grew suspicious that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had carried out the attack when he threw away a backpack and laptop he had removed from the suspect's dorm room, a federal agent testified on Thursday.
Three of Tsarnaev's college friends face charges of hampering the probe into the blast, which killed three people and injured more than 260. At hearings this week, lawyers for one student, Dias Kadyrbayev, sought to prove that the statements he made to law enforcement four days after the bombing were not voluntary and should not be admitted at trial.
James Wiroll, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, recalled arresting Kadyrbayev and his roommate Azamat Tazhayakov, both Kazakh nationals, on immigration violations five days after the attack.
Wiroll said Kadyrbayev told him he had thrown away the backpack, which contained empty fireworks cases, and laptop after coming to suspect that Tsarnaev had committed the bombing.
"He suspected Tsarnaev was one of the Boston Marathon bombers and he threw the items away," Wiroll said, reading from a report written shortly after the arrest.
Tsarnaev is awaiting trial. His older brother, Tamerlan, died in a gunbattle with police four days after the attack.
A diplomatic representative from Kazakhstan was present and translated some documents when Wiroll interviewed Kadyrbayev.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov were first questioned by investigators four days after the bombing when heavily armed law enforcement agents arrived at their New Bedford, Massachusetts, apartment.
The next day, they were arrested on charges of violating the terms of their student visas.
A stream of federal agents had testified at three days of pre-trial hearings that Kadyrbayev's interviews were voluntary.
"He was relaxed, he was animated when he spoke, at times he would laugh," said FBI Special Agent Steven Schiliro, who interviewed Kadyrbayev the night before his arrest.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, which carry a penalty of up to 25 years in prison, while a third man, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, faces a less serious charge of lying to investigators, which could mean a possible 16-year sentence.
Separately, prosecutors reported in a court filing that the police barracks received a phone call that night from a person identifying himself as a public defender, but that the caller was not put in touch with either of the men being interrogated.
"A plain-clothes detective told (FBI special agent, Farbod) Azad and Special Agent (Michael) Blane that a man who claimed to be an attorney for 'the Dartmouth students' had called the barracks," prosecutors said in a filing in U.S. District Court in Boston. "Azad did not relay to the defendants any aspect of what the detective told him."
Kadyrbayev is due to take the stand to testify on whether his comments were made voluntarily but will not do so this week. His appearance was delayed until after an expert witness gives testimony on his proficiency in English.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Chizu Nomiyama and Gunna Dickson)