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Friend of accused Boston Marathon bomber seeks trial venue change

Defendants Dias Kadyrbayev (L) and Azamat Tazhayakov are pictured in a courtroom sketch, appearing in front of Federal Magistrate Marianne B
Defendants Dias Kadyrbayev (L) and Azamat Tazhayakov are pictured in a courtroom sketch, appearing in front of Federal Magistrate Marianne B

BOSTON (Reuters) - A friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber on Tuesday asked a judge to move his trial on charges of interfering with the investigation, arguing that pretrial publicity has made it impossible for him to get a fair hearing in Massachusetts.

Kazakh exchange student Dias Kadyrbayev filed papers in U.S. District Court in Boston, joining earlier motions by two other defendants, Azamat Tazhayakov, also of Kazakhstan, and Robel Phillipos, of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Prosecutors accused ethnic Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of killing three people and injuring 264 others in the April 15, 2013 bombing at the marathon finish line and shooting dead a university police officer three days later.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunbattle with police and Dzhokhar was arrested and is awaiting trial on charges that carry the possibility of execution if he is convicted.

Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos face criminal charges for going to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the bombing and removing a backpack containing empty fireworks shells and a laptop.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov face charges of obstruction of justice and lying to investigators, which carry the penalty of up to 25 years in prison, while Phillipos faces a less serious charge of lying to investigators, which carries a possible 16-year sentence.

In a court filing last Friday, Tazhayakov's lawyer argued that news coverage linking the friends with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has indelibly tainted the potential jury pool in Massachusetts.

"With the defendants' trial date less that two months away and within 14 months of the horrific incident, the Boston community will not have had adequate time for such passions to cool," Tazhayakov's lawyer argued.

He noted that the trial of Timothy McVeigh, who was accused of the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma, was moved to Colorado. McVeigh was found guilty and executed in 2001.

District Judge Douglas Woodlock has set a June trial date for the three friends, while Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's trial is scheduled to begin in December.

(This story corrects third paragraph to show bombing occurred in 2013, not 2003)

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Grant McCool)

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