Authorities have identified a pair of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s classmates as two of the three new suspects arrested in connection with the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings.
Boston police announced the arrests of Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev, and Robel Phillipos on Wednesday morning, adding that there was “no threat to the public,” CNN reports. They appeared before a federal judge Wednesday afternoon.
All three students attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth alongside Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, The Boston Globe reports. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, both of Kazakhstan, were charged with making false statements to investigators and conspiracy to obstruct justice, a federal law enforcement source told CNN. According to their lawyers, both men were already in federal custody due to pending immigration charges.
If convicted of the obstruction charges, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev face maximum sentences of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, The Boston Globe reports.
Phillipos, identified as a U.S. citizen, was charged with lying to federal agents probing the bombing, according to court documents. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of eight years and a $250,000 fine, prosecutors said Wednesday.
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According to sources close to the investigation, Kadyrbayev was first taken into federal custody on April 19, hours before police captured Tsarnaev. Kadyrbayev was then released, only to be brought back in for additional questioning on April 21, sources told CNN.
Authorities were initially suspicious of activity on Kadyrbayev’s Facebook page. While Tsarnaev was evading police in the early morning hours of April 19, Kadyrbayev was deleting a photo that allegedly showed him and the bombing suspect having dinner together, sources told CNN.
In addition, Kadyrbayev listed himself as a member of MIT’s School of Engineering, lending possible credence to the assertion that the Tsarnaev brothers had the assistance from an engineer while developing their explosive devices, CNN reports.
While Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are not currently suspected of aiding the actual bombing operation, authorities are investigating whether the newly charged suspects disposed of a book bag on the orders of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Reuters reports.
Alan Dershowitz, a renowned defense attorney and Harvard Law professor, told CNN that the obstruction charges were “weak.”
"If they knew about the bombing, if they were involved in the bombing, the charges would be conspiracy to do the acts for which the other man has already been charged," Dershowitz told CNN. "So it sounds like at this point in time the only evidence they have is actions that took place after the bombing."