BOSTON (Reuters) - A Kazakh exchange student awaiting trial on charges of obstructing the investigation into last year’s Boston Marathon bombing testified on Tuesday he told federal agents he suspected his friend, accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, took part in the deadly attack.
The exchange student, Dias Kadyrbayev, took the witness stand for a second day in a pretrial hearing in which his attorneys tried to persuade a judge to throw out early statements to law enforcement officials because he did not understand his rights.
Three people were killed and 264 injured in the April 15, 2013, blasts at the marathon.
The day after Tsarnaev was captured, Kadyrbayev and a roommate were arrested on immigration charges. Kadyrbayev was presented with a copy of a statement he had made to FBI agents the day before during hours of interrogation, but objected to the report because it said that he knew, rather than merely suspected, Tsarnaev’s role.
“You said you didn’t know for sure he was the bomber, that you suspected he was the bomber, correct?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann asked Kadyrbayev, 20, during cross examination at U.S. District Court in Boston.
“Yes,” Kadyrbayev replied.
Kadyrbayev is one of three college friends of Tsarnaev charged with going to the suspect’s dormitory room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth three days after the attack and removing a laptop and backpack containing empty fireworks shells.
Siegmann on Tuesday showed a form in which Kadyrbayev admitted to taking those items. Kadyrbayev noted he had objected to an earlier version that said he had known of Tsarnaev’s role.
Kadyrbayev and fellow Kazakh exchange student Azamat Tazhayakov are charged with obstruction of justice and could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. A third friend, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, faces up to 16 years if convicted of lying to investigators.
Kadyrbayev’s attorneys are trying to persuade U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock to throw out the statement, arguing that it was involuntary and that Kadyrbayev was not sufficiently fluent in English to understand his rights.
Woodlock declined to hear additional testimony on a public defense attorney who called the state police station where Kadyrbayev was questioned four days after the bombing but was never put in touch with Kadyrbayev. At issue is whether Kadyrbayev was denied legal representation at the time.
Kadyrbayev and the FBI agents who interrogated him testified he had asked if he needed an attorney, a question the agents declined to answer other than to say he was not under arrest.
“That’s not saying to him that we say ‘no’ when you ask for a lawyer,” Woodlock said. “He asks about it and they deflect it as they are trained to do. You’d have to fall off the turnip truck not to understand what well-trained agents are going to do in situations like that.”
Tsarnaev, also accused of killing a university police officer three days after the bombings, is awaiting trial in a prison west of Boston. He faces the possibility of execution if convicted.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Susan Heavey and Will Dunham