Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has shared the recorded six-minute phone conversation she had with her son last week, marking the first time the world has heard Tsarnaev’s voice since he was arrested for the April 15 attacks that killed three and injured more than 260 people.
In an interview with Channel 4 in the U.K., Tsarnaeva played back the six-minute phone call she had with her 19-year-old son, in which he insists he’s “fine” and tries to calm his mother. The entire conversation was in Russian, as the family are ethnic Chechens.
In one part of the call, Tsarnaeva asks Dzhokhar if he’s in pain. Tsarnaev has been held at a federal detention center that treats suspects and inmates who have injuries, in his case a throat wound sustained either during the shootout with authorities in Watertown, Mass., or when he was captured later in the day after hiding out in a boat. His brother and fellow suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in the shootout with authorities.
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“No, of course not,” Tsarnaev says in Russian. “I’m already eating and have been for a long time. They are giving me rice and chicken now. Everything’s fine.”
Tsarnaeva then tells him, “You are my life,” and encourages him to "be strong.”
“Everything is good, please don’t say anything,” Tsarnaev replies.
As Tsarnaeva plays back the tape for Channel 4, she starts to wail from hearing her son’s voice in the phone call.
During the conversation, she says, “Muslims and non-Muslims love you.”
In an interview with Channel 4, Tsarnaeva said in English that Dzhokhar, also known as Jahar, used the phone call to relax her.
“I felt like he would scream, ‘What’s going on?’ That he would ask the world, ‘What’s going on?” she said. “Instead, he was just calming me down. He was trying to calm me down. ‘Mama, you don’t worry about anything.’”
Tsarnaev’s parents denied earlier reports that Dzhokhar told them he was innocent of the Boston Marathon bombing, but they said he didn’t need to tell them that because they believed he didn’t commit the attacks.
“I know that my kids did not do it,” Tsarnaeva said.
However, federal authorities claim Dzhokhar scrawled a message explaining the motive for the bombing while he hid in a boat when the massive manhunt for him was under way. Reportedly he wrote that the bombings were retribution for U.S. attacks on Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Tsarnaev could face the death penalty if he's convicted of two terrorism-related charges brought against him. Federal prosecutors have not said whether they would pursue the death penalty. If they don’t, Tsarnaev’s maximum punishment would be life in prison.
Tsarnaeva said her family is devout Muslims but added that Jahar, who was into partying, needed more persuading to follow the religion. She did not directly address assertions by the suspects' uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, that Tamerlan had radically influenced his younger brother.
“Tamerlan used to tell to Jahar, ‘You know, we are not Muslim, we cannot call ourselves Muslim if we don’t think [of] our Allah five times a day, as it is written in the Koran.”