US & Canada

Kyrgyz man 'lied' to Boston bombing investigators

This combination of file photos shows brothers Tamerlan, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings 15 April 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption Prosecutors say Matanov lied to investigators about how well he knew Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (above)

Authorities in the US state of Massachusetts have charged a Kyrgyzstan national with lying to police and destroying evidence in the Boston bombings investigation.

Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, spoke to the suspects accused of the bombing in the days after the attack, prosecutors say.

Mr Matanov is not accused of a role in the bombings or of knowing of the plot.

The blasts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three people and hurt more than 260 on 15 April 2013.

In a statement, the US attorney's office in Boston said that in the days after the bombing, Mr Matanov realised the FBI would want to interview him because of his ties to Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the bombing suspects, and because he shared their "philosophical justification for violence".

Prosecutors say Mr Matanov deleted information from his computer and lied to FBI investigators about his relationship with the brothers.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in connection with the bombing and is awaiting trial. His brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shoot-out with police four days after the attack.

'Supported' bombing

Mr Matanov, a taxi driver who arrived in the US legally in 2010 and lives in Quincy, Massachusetts, is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

According to prosecutors, Mr Matanov had known the brothers prior to the bombings, spoke to both several times after the explosions, and took them out to dinner the evening after the attack.

"In the days following the bombings, Matanov continued to express support for the bombings, although later that week he said that maybe the bombings were wrong," the federal prosecutors wrote in an indictment filed on Friday.

After the FBI released photos of the brothers identifying them as suspects, Mr Matanov attempted to call Tamerlan Tsarnaev several times, prosecutors said.

He eventually drove to a local police station, where he told officers he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev but lied about how well, prosecutors said.

A detective there told him he would likely be contacted by the FBI, and in response, Mr Matanov allegedly deleted hundreds of files from his computer and his internet history.

Mr Matanov was soon interviewed by agents with the FBI who also seized his computer. According to the indictment, he lied during several interviews with the federal investigators.

"Although Matanov soon dropped the pretence that he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev had not seen each other much, he continued to falsify, conceal, and cover up evidence of the extent of his friendship, contact and communication with the Tsarnaevs during the week of the bombings, especially during the hours following the bombings," it said.

Last year, police charged three university friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with obstruction of justice in the bombing investigation.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev - both from Kazakhstan - allegedly threw away the younger Tsarnaev's laptop and backpack.

Robel Phillipos is accused of lying to investigators. None of the three are implicated in plotting the attacks.

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