BOSTON >> Two college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who were jailed by immigration authorities the day after his capture had nothing to do with the deadly attack and had seen no hints that he harbored any violent thoughts or terrorist sympathies, a lawyer for one of them said today.
Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, who are from Kazakhstan, were classmates with Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. They appeared alongside him in a recent photograph of a group of young men visiting New York City’s Times Square. They were detained April 20 after being questioned in connection with the bombing, which had killed three people and injured more than 260 others a few days earlier.
“These kids are just as shocked and horrified about what happened as everyone else,” Kadyrbayev’s lawyer, Robert Stahl, said in a phone interview. “They can’t even fathom something like this from a kid who seemed to be a typical young college student.”
Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev have been interviewed at length, twice, by FBI agents and have cooperated fully, said Stahl, a former federal prosecutor. They are not suspects but are being held for violating their student visas by not regularly attending classes, Stahl said. They are being detained at a county jail in Boston.
The Kazakh Foreign Ministry said Monday night that U.S. authorities came across the two while searching for “possible links and contacts” to Tsarnaev, a sophomore at the university. U.S. immigration officials have declined to discuss the reasons why the men were detained.
John Hoey, an assistant chancellor at UMass Dartmouth, said Kadyrbayev is no longer enrolled; he was last a student in the fall. Tazhayakov is enrolled.
The pair had lived at an off-campus apartment in New Bedford, about 60 miles south of Boston, and got around in a car registered to Kadyrbayev with a souvenir plate that says “Terrorista (hash)1.” The car was pictured on Tsarnaev’s Twitter feed in March.
That plate was just a joke gift from some of Kadyrbayev’s friends, meant to invoke his penchant for late-night partying rather than his political sentiments, Stahl said.
“It’s such a silly thing. Bad timing,” Stahl said. “His desire is to be released so he can return home. He would like to go home to the comfort of his family. You can imagine being 19 years old and having SWAT teams break down your door. It’s a terrible situation.”
Stahl said the young Kazakhs didn’t see Tsarnaev in the days before or after the April 15 bombing.
Tazhayakov’s lawyer, Thomas Kirsch, did not immediately return a phone call or an email message Friday evening.
Tsarnaev, who was captured hiding in a tarp-covered boat in a suburban Boston yard after a lengthy manhunt, is in federal custody. His older brother, the other identified suspect in the bombing, died after a shootout with police. Their mother has said the allegations against them are lies.
Associated Press writer Erika Niedowski contributed to this report.