US charges friend of Boston bombers with obstruction

Authorities say suspect, a US resident from Kyrgyzstan, tried to hide his association with the Tsarnaev brothers

Brothers Dzhokhar (left) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in an image taken approximately 10-20 minutes before the blast near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (photo credit: AP/Bob Leonard/File)
Brothers Dzhokhar (left) and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in an image taken approximately 10-20 minutes before the blast near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (photo credit: AP/Bob Leonard/File)

BOSTON (AP) — A friend of the brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings was charged Friday with obstructing the investigation into the deadly attack.

Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, of Quincy, was arrested at his apartment shortly after 5 a.m. He was scheduled to appear in US District Court in Boston on Friday afternoon.

Matanov, a legal resident of the US originally from Kyrgyzstan, destroyed, altered and falsified records in a federal investigation, and made false statements in a federal investigation, according to US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office.

Ortiz said in a news release that Matanov is not charged with participating in the bombings or knowing about them in advance, but a spokeswoman declined to comment when asked if additional charges are possible against Matanov.

Matanov knew Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are accused of planting two homemade bombs that killed three people and injured more than 260 others at the finish line of the marathon in April 2013. He realized the FBI would want to talk with him because he shared their “philosophical justification for violence,” federal prosecutors said.

Just 40 minutes after the bombings, Matanov called Tamerlan Tsarnaev and invited him to dinner, they said. Tamerlan accepted, and that night, Matanov bought Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev dinner at a restaurant.

Following dinner, prosecutors said, Matanov told an unnamed witness that he could support the bombings if they had a “just reason” — for example, having been done in the name of Islam.

“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 indictment said.

Matanov’s lawyer, Paul Glickman, did not immediately return a phone message Friday. A phone number for Matanov could not immediately be located.

Prosecutors said Matanov tried to contact the Tsarnaevs after he saw media reports identifying them as the bombing suspects. He deleted information regarding the brothers from his computer, including Internet searches, they said.

He also allegedly asked a friend to destroy his cellphones, but that friend refused. And he repeatedly lied to investigators about the extent of his friendship with the Tsarnaevs, prosecutors said.

The brothers, ethnic Chechens who lived in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan and the Dagestan region of Russia, settled in the United States more than a decade ago.

According to the indictment, Matanov, who worked as taxi driver, among other jobs, became friends with Tamerlan Tsarnaev after coming to the US in 2010. The indictment said the two discussed religion and hiked up a mountain in New Hampshire in order to praise and emulate the training of the mujahedeen.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to 301 federal charges and is awaiting trial. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a gunbattle with police four days after the bombings.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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