Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Photo credit: AP Photo/The Lowell Sun & Robin Young, File
Department of Homeland Security police officers stand watch outside the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston on May...
Department of Homeland Security police officers stand watch outside the Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston on May 1.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Medical workers aid injured people at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon following a bomb explosion on...
Medical workers aid injured people at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon following a bomb explosion on April 15.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File
BOSTON (AP) — Three college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were arrested and accused Wednesday of removing a backpack containing fireworks emptied of gunpowder from Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the attack to try to keep him from getting into trouble.
In court papers, the FBI said one of them threw the backpack in the garbage — it was later found in a landfill by law enforcement officers — after they concluded from news reports that Tsarnaev was one of the bombers.
Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third man, Robel Phillipos, was charged with lying to investigators about the visit to Tsarnaev's room.
A court appearance for the three was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Their lawyers refused to comment ahead of the hearing.
Three people were killed and more than 260 injured on April 15 when two bombs exploded near the finish line. The suspect's brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after a gunfight with police several days later. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and lies in a prison hospital.
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, who came to the U.S. from Kazakhstan, have been held in jail for more than a week on allegations that they violated their student visas while attending college. All three men charged Wednesday began attending UMass with Tsarnaev at the same time in 2011, according to the FBI.
The three were not accused of any direct involvement in the bombing itself. But in a footnote in the court papers outlining the charges, the FBI said that about a month before the bombing, Tsarnaev told Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev that he knew how to make a bomb.
Authorities allege that on the night of April 18, after the FBI released photos of the bombing suspects and the three men suspected their friend was one of them, they went to Tsarnaev's dorm room.
Before Tsarnaev's roommate let them in, Kadyrbayev showed Tazhayakov a text message from Tsarnaev that stated, "I'm about to leave if you need something in my room take it," according to the FBI.
When Tazhayakov learned of the message, "he believed he would never see Tsarnaev alive again," the FBI said in the affidavit.
It was not clear from the court papers whether authorities believe that was an instruction from Tsarnaev to his friends to destroy evidence.
Once inside Tsarnaev's room, the men noticed a backpack containing fireworks, which had been opened and emptied of powder, the FBI said.
The FBI said that Kadyrbayev knew when he saw the empty fireworks that Tsarnaev was involved in the bombings and decided to remove the backpack from the room "in order to help his friend Tsarnaev avoid trouble."
Kadyrbayev also decided to remove Tsarnaev's laptop "because he did not want Tsarnaev's roommate to think he was stealing or behaving suspiciously by just taking the backpack," the FBI said in court papers.
After the three men returned to Kadyrbayev's and Tazhayakov's apartment with the backpack and computer, they watched news reports featuring photographs of Tsarnaev.
The FBI affidavit says Kadyrbayev told authorities the three men then "collectively decided to throw the backpack and fireworks into the trash because they did not want Tsarnaev to get into trouble."
Kadyrbayev said he placed the backpack and fireworks along with trash from the apartment into a large trash bag and threw it into a garbage bin near the men's apartment.
When the backpack was later found in a landfill last week, inside it was a UMass-Dartmouth homework assignment sheet from a class Tsarnaev was taking, the FBI said.
A federal law enforcement official said Tazhayakov left the United States in December but was allowed to return despite not having a valid student visa.
Tazhayakov's student-visa status was terminated in early January after he was academically dismissed from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss details of Tazhayakov's immigration status.
But he was still allowed to re-enter the U.S. on Jan. 20, the official said.
Meanwhile, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's relatives will claim his body now that his wife has agreed to release it, an uncle said. The body of Tsarnaev, 26, has been at the medical examiner's office in Massachusetts since he died after a gunfight with authorities more than a week ago.
Amato DeLuca, the attorney for his widow, Katherine Russell, said Tuesday that his client had just learned that the medical examiner was ready to release Tsarnaev's body and that she wants it released to his side of the family.
Police said Tsarnaev ran out of ammunition before his 19-year-old brother dragged his body under a vehicle while fleeing the scene. His cause of death has been determined but will not be made public until his remains are claimed.
"Of course, family members will take possession of the body," uncle Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland said Tuesday night. "We'll do it. We will do it. A family is a family."
He would not elaborate. Tsarnaev's parents are in Russia, but he has other relatives on his side of the family in the U.S., including Tsarni.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Michelle R. Smith in Providence; Rodrique Ngowi in Boston; Lynn Berry in Moscow; Arsen Mollyaev in Makhachkala, Russia; and Eric Tucker, Alicia A. Caldwell, Eileen Sullivan and AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier in Washington.
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