A campaign to exonerate Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has gained momentum on social media just days after his capture in Watertown, Mass.
Tsarnaev, whose older brother Tamerlan died during a firefight with police officers last Friday morning, was charged on Monday with use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death.
"These guys did the Boston Marathon bombing; they did not flee," Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau told ABC News. "They had their pictures put into the media all over the world. They did not flee. They still had bombs. ... They had a plan to kill more people."
"That was clear from what they had on them. We have the pressure cooker bomb, and we have five other what we were referring to as hand grenades -- what they can lob over -- what they made themselves. Six explosive devices that we recovered so far that evening. ... So their plan was to kill more people," he added.
Many supporters flocking to Tsarnaev’s defense claim that he is innocent of the charges and have taken to Twitter to raise awareness about the case, using the hashtags #FreeJahar, #JusticeForJahar, and #TroyCrossleyTruth, after Troy Crossley, a friend of Tsarnaev’s from Boston who has helped lead the campaign for him.
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According to Wired, the 19-year-old suspect’s supporters range from sympathizers who believe he might have been framed for the bombings and for his alleged participation in the killing of an MIT campus officer, to those who simply believe he deserves a fair trial. “All Footage has no proof of Jahar or his bro JUST DARKNESS AN RANDOM SHOTS .... WE THE SO CALLED "EXTREMIST" HAVE WITNESSSES SAYIN OTHERWISE” Crossley tweeted on Monday.
One petition directed at President Obama, which has garnered more than 3,800 signatures on Change.org, asks that Obama consider the possibility that Tsarnaev was wrongfully accused.
“We believe that within the chaos caused by the Boston Marathon explosion, two young men were wrongfully accused of something they did not do, and one of them has lost his life before even getting the opportunity of a proper trial,” the petition’s creator, Anita Temisheva, writes. “It is vital to end this persecution, as all the conflicting information shown by the media … doesn't manifest itself as enough evidence to condemn Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of this heinous crime.”
The campaign has already provoked a negative response on Twitter from those who don’t believe Tsarnaev is deserving of sympathy. Twitter user @KamaainalnOC’s tweet, “Dear FBI, check out the #freejahar hashtag for terrorist sympathizers. Please deport them to their country of choice” was retweeted more than 500 times on Sunday.
“All these #FreeJahar tweets are sickening. I wish we could "free" him back to 13th Century England so he could be hanged, drawn & quartered,” @KelsMads76 wrote.
Tsarnaev is currently being questioned about the bombings from his hospital bed at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has not announced whether the U.S. attorney’s office intends to seek the death penalty, but he has said that Tsarnaev will not be treated as an “enemy combatant.”