Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev could face the death penalty after being charged on Monday for his alleged role in the attacks that left three people dead and 200 wounded.
The 19-year-old was said to be alert as he was arraigned in his hospital bed on charges of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property by means of deadly explosives, the US Department of Justice said.
The charges came as Boston marked the one-week anniversary of the twin marathon bombings with a moment of silence observed across the US.
Dzhokhar was caught after a massive manhunt that virtually shut down Boston and its suburbs on Friday. His brother and alleged accomplice, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a chaotic overnight shootout with police.
If Dzhokhar, a naturalized US citizen of Chechen descent, is convicted of the federal charges, he faces jail time or even death.
“We’ve once again shown that those who target innocent Americans and attempt to terrorize our cities will not escape from justice,” US Attorney General Eric Holder said.
A hearing was set for May 30.
The unsealing of the federal charges against Dzhokhar, who suffered gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs and hand before his capture late on Friday, came as White House spokesman Jay Carney said he would not be deemed an “enemy combatant.”
“We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice,” Carney said after some Republicans had called for Dzhokhar to have the same status as the “war on terror” detainees held in the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.
A clearer picture of Dzhokhar’s role in the attacks emerged with the release of an affidavit from an FBI agent on Monday, which revealed he had been caught on film planting the second backpack bomb.
Surveillance footage showed Dzhokhar calmly walking away from the scene after the first bomb was detonated, the affidavit showed.
Dzhokhar, who remains bedridden and hospitalized, spoke only one word aloud at his bedside hearing on Monday, responding “no” when asked whether he could afford an attorney, a transcript of the hearing released on Monday showed.
The record showed he nodded when asked whether he understood the process and the charges against him. The federal judge said she found him “alert, mentally competent and lucid,” the transcript showed.
As counterterrorism agents trained in interrogating “high-value” detainees waited to learn more from Dzhokhar, Bostonians tried to put the traumatic week behind them.
The city honored the victims of the blasts with a moment of silence at 2:50pm that was also observed in Washington, by US President Barack Obama and lawmakers, and at the New York City stock exchange.
Hundreds gathered outside the security cordon set up near the blast sites at the marathon finish line on Boylston Street to honor the dead and wounded.
FBI investigators are hoping to get answers from Dzhokhar about the brothers’ motive and learn if other attacks were in the works.
An unnamed US government source told CNN that “preliminary interviews with [Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev indicate the two brothers fit the classification of self-radicalized jihadists,” and international groups were not involved.
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