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Closed-door hearing for friend of accused Boston bomber

BOSTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors met in a closed-door hearing on Thursday with lawyers for the last of three friends of the accused Boston Marathon bomber to face criminal charges for removing a laptop and backpack from the suspect's dorm room.

The prosecution and defense declined to comment on the substance of the hearing, which was held under court seal.

Robel Phillipos, a 20-year-old resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is charged with lying to investigators about his role in the April 18, 2013, visit to the dorm of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, three days after the bombing that killed three people and injured 264.

Two other friends, Kazakh exchange students Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, faced the more serious charge of obstruction of justice for removing the items from Tsarnaev's room at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and dropping them in a dumpster.

Tazhayakov was found guilty of obstruction in July and Kadyrbayev last month pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for a seven-year sentence that was less than the 25 years he could have faced if convicted at trial.

Phillipos is due to go on trial in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts later this month and faces a sentence of up to 16 years in prison if convicted.

Tsarnaev is awaiting a trial set to begin in November. He faces the possibility of execution if found guilty of carrying out the deadly bombing and also murdering a university police officer three days later.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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