BOSTON — The dispute over where to bury suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev escalated Wednesday as a Massachusetts police chief urged someone to step forward with a cemetery plot, saying: “We are not barbarians. We bury the dead.”
Worcester police Chief Gary Gemme’s plea came a day after he said that a deal struck Monday to bury the 26-year-old’s remains at a state prison site dissolved, with state officials no longer offering cooperation Tuesday.
State corrections officials didn’t immediately return a phone message Wednesday.
Police said it’s costing the department tens of thousands of dollars to provide security at the funeral home that is holding Tsarnaev’s body, and officer details are wasting precious resources.
Gemme said sending the body to Russia is “not an option,” as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino suggested Tuesday, when he also said through an aide that he didn’t want the bombing suspect buried in Boston.
Worcester funeral home director Peter Stefan has said none of the 120 offers of graves from the U.S. and Canada have worked out because officials in those cities and towns don’t want the body.
At the same time, U.S. law enforcement officials have been trying to determine whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev was indoctrinated or trained by militants during a 2012 visit to Dagestan, a Caspian Sea province that has become the center of a simmering Islamic insurgency.
On Tuesday, FBI director Robert Mueller discussed the bombing investigation with his Russian counterparts during a trip to Moscow. The U.S. and Russia have been collaborating on a criminal investigation into the late 26-year-old and his brother, 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Authorities allege the two brothers carried out the April 15 bombings near the race’s finish line, using pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails, ball bearings and metal shards. The attack killed three people and injured more than 260 others.
Tamerlan died following a gunbattle with police, and authorities captured Dzhokhar after a massive manhunt following his escape from the same encounter. The younger brother is now in a prison hospital, facing charges that could bring the death penalty.
On Tuesday, the father of a student charged with conspiracy in the Boston Marathon bombing case said his son believes Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is “not a human” if he’s responsible for the attacks.
Amir Ismagulov, the father of Azamat Tazhayakov, also insisted during an Associated Press interview that his son is not a terrorist.
He said he has visited his son once in prison since arriving in the United States from Kazakhstan more than a week ago. He said he left flowers several times at a memorial near the Boston Marathon finish line at the 19-year-old’s request.
“Azamat loves the United States and the people of the United States,” Ismagulov said as Arkady Bukh, his son’s new Russian-speaking lawyer, translated for him. “He is not aggressive. He is not a terrorist. He is a simple boy.”
Tazhayakov is in a federal prison on charges that he conspired to destroy, conceal and cover up objects belonging to Tsarnaev, a college friend from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if found guilty.
Ismagulov, 46, who works in the oil field business in Kazakhstan, described his son as an engineering student who was “happy in life” before “in one day, his life was shattered.” He said Tazhayakov told him “it took days to get out of the shock because of the accusations” against him.
Bukh, a New York City lawyer from the former Soviet Union, said Tazhayakov’s family is “absolutely devastated” over the bombings.
He stressed that Tazhayakov was cooperating with the government before his arrest last week.
The lawyer said his client helped hand over Tsarnaev’s laptop to the FBI on April 19 after he and friend Dias Kadyrbayev learned that federal agents were looking for them. Kadyrbayev also is charged with obstruction of justice in the bombing case.
A third college friend, Robel Phillipos, got out of federal lockup on $100,000 bond Monday while awaiting trial for allegedly lying to federal investigators.
Tazhayakov’s next court date is May 14, but Bukh said arguing for his release would be a “problematic issue” in part because immigration agents could try to detain him again even if he satisfies bail conditions.
Authorities initially charged Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev with violating the terms of their student visas while attending UMass Dartmouth.
Immigration officials said Tuesday that they have temporarily suspended the immigration court proceedings against the two men but will continue the immigration removal process after their criminal cases are resolved.
The FBI has alleged that on April 18, just hours after surveillance camera photos of the Tsarnaev brothers became public, the three students went to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room and removed his backpack and laptop computer.
Authorities said one of them later threw the backpack in the garbage, and it wound up in a landfill, where law enforcement officers found it. In the backpack were fireworks that had been emptied of their gunpowder.
Bukh said the criminal complaint alleges it was Kadyrbayev, and not his client, who threw away the backpack with the fireworks.
Ismagulov said his son told him he never intended to help Tsarnaev hide evidence. He also said Tazhayakov wasn’t sure if Tsarnaev was one of the suspects in the first photos that were released because those images weren’t high quality.
“He would never intend to do anything bad to people in the United States,” Ismagulov said of his son.
He said he has left flowers at the memorial site because his son asked him “to express condolences to innocent people who were hurt and killed.”
In other developments Tuesday, the administrator of the One Fund Boston charity said potential recipients should have low expectations because the $28 million fund won’t pay out nearly enough to fully compensate the families of those who died or who suffered injuries.
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg said at a public meeting in Boston that his draft plan for distributing the money reserves the highest payments for the families of those killed at the marathon and for the relatives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer who authorities say the bombing suspects killed.
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