By Karin Friedemann, TMO
The trial of Azamat Tazhayakov began July 7 and is expected to conclude next week. Azamat along with two other friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Philipos are accused of concealing evidence from the FBI in relation to their pursuit of his friend, Dzhokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaev, who is accused of bombing the Boston Marathon in April 2013. Dias and Robel will be tried separately. Azamatâ€™s father, a wealthy oil man and local Khazak politician, insisted on a speedy trial even though the attorneys wanted more time to prepare, so Azamatâ€™s trial comes first.
â€œThe 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,â€ said US assistant attorney Stephanie Siegmann in her opening statement.
A number of mutual friends were subpoenaed as witnesses. Without exception they testified that Jahar was not acting strangely after the bombings, that he had never said anything anti-American, he had never been seen with a pressure cooker, BBs or bomb making material, that they could not believe he was a terrorist, and that his friends had gone into Jaharâ€™s dorm room to take marijuana after receiving a message from Jahar saying â€œtake whatever you want.â€ They were all under the impression that Jahar was leaving the country. Dias Kadyrbayev removed some fireworks from the room, but not all of the fireworks. He also took a laptop, a spiral notebook, a thumb drive, and a jar of Vaseline and took them home to the New Bedford, Massachusetts apartment he shared with Azamat. FBI testimony revealed that there were still other fireworks found in the apartment.
Only after Diasâ€™ girlfriend Bayan Kumiskali told him to â€œget rid of itâ€ did Dias throw away the bag with fireworks, but he kept the laptop. It had not occurred to him that these items could be evidence of anything. It does not appear that he was trying to conceal evidence, since he threw away Jaharâ€™s homework assignment in the same bag. Azamatâ€™s defense also argued that Azamat never threw away the bag, it was Dias who did.
As an engineering major, Jaharâ€™s roommate Andrew Dwinells owned a lab kit, which contained wire, wire cutters, and other items. The kit was in plain sight on his bookcase on the 18th, but Dzhokharâ€™s three friends did not take it.
A number of FBI agents gave testimony that was often contradictory. The â€œwhite hatâ€ that they had removed from the apartment as evidence had a different number on it than the hat in the surveillance photo. Agent Walker gave testimony that contradicted his previous testimony. He now â€œdoesnâ€™t recallâ€ many things he said it pretrial testimony. Agent Walker says he could have arrested the men on 4/19/13 but then admitted he testified previously he had no basis to arrest them. The FBI admitted thereâ€™s no evidence Azamat knew about the bombing, though earlier Agent Walker testified that Azamat had done web searches for Tsarnaev before he had been identified as a suspect. Defense attorney Wooldridge asks Agent Walker if he realized the media had previously misidentified suspects in bombing. Walker says he was â€œnot aware of this.â€
On Monday, July 14 the defense and prosecution rested their cases. Judge Woodlock told the jury the burden of proof is on the government, and that they should not hold Azamatâ€™s decision not to testify against him. The judge referred to the possible defense view that Azamatâ€™s actions on 4/18/13 were related to hiding drug activity, not terrorism. Closing arguments are to take place Wednesday July 16.
Jahar Supporters Initiate Birthday Campaign 2014
This July 22 will be Dzokhar (Jahar) Tsarnaevâ€™s second birthday in prison held in solitary confinement. He will be 21 years old. Since he cannot receive cards, letters, gifts or any other kind of birthday wishes, Amber Bishop from the Free Jahar movement has come up with the perfect way to let him know how much people care about him.
The group is asking people to do magnificent works of charity in Jaharâ€™s name. â€This could mean donating to a charity, taking snacks to your local fire department, handing out balloons to children in the hospital, giving a flower to random passersby, helping someone to their car or carrying their groceries. Mow someoneâ€™s lawn for free. Take food to the food pantry. If all you have to offer is prayers, then pray for someone. The sky is the limit when it comes to being kind.â€
Amber is creating a scrapbook of everyoneâ€™s â€œamazing deedsâ€ that will be given to his sister, who promised to tell him all about it when she visits him in prison.
â€œThe prosecution contends that Jahar inspires people. Letâ€™s show them how right they are,â€ writes Amber. â€œYou may be wondering how this campaign â€œhelpsâ€ him. Just imagine if when arguing his character at the SAMs hearing and how he could potentially inspire others to continue his work, the defense can produce a book full of heart-felt, charitable deeds that our sweet boy has inspired us to do… He can only do these things through us, so donâ€™t let him down.â€
The Tsarnaev family likes charities that feed the hungry. They suggested sending money to the needy in Syria, but they also mentioned that they care deeply about Africa, Palestine, and Pakistan.
â€œA small act of kindness can go a long way in this world. It can start a chain reaction of good deeds. â€œI canâ€™t wait to see what you send!â€ writes Amber. She suggests sending donations in his name, when possible, or letting people know you are doing this deed for Jahar in some way.
If you would like to contribute to this effort, message Amber Bishop on facebook or send an email to email@example.com