BOSTON (AP) – A friend of the brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings was accused Friday of obstructing the investigation into the deadly attack by deleting information from his computer and lying to investigators.
The friend, Khairullozhon Matanov, 23, of Quincy, was arrested at his apartment shortly after 5 a.m. He appeared in federal court hours later but entered no plea and was being held until a detention hearing Wednesday.
Matanov, a legal resident of the U.S. originally from Kyrgyzstan, destroyed, altered and falsified records in a federal investigation and made false statements, according to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office. Among the information he deleted from his computer was references to videos and photos of the bombing suspects that were released by the FBI, a photo of the MIT police officer who authorities say the bombing suspects killed days after the attack and files that contained violent content or calls to violence.
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 whether additional charges were possible against him.
Matanov knew Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who authorities say planted two homemade bombs that killed three people and wounded more than 260 at the marathon finish line last year. He realized the FBI would want to talk with him because he shared their “philosophical justification for violence,” federal prosecutors said.
When Matanov spoke with federal investigators, he quickly dropped the pretense that he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev had not seen each other much, but he continued to downplay their friendship, an indictment alleges.
Matanov’s lawyer, Edward Hayden, called the allegations unsubstantiated and said his client looked forward to contesting the charges.
“He had no intent to mislead the FBI, and from what I can see, what he said and did didn’t impede the investigation,” Hayden said of his client.
Hayden said Matanov came to the U.S. in 2010 on a student visa and attended college briefly, and was later granted political asylum because of unrest in Kyrgyzstan. He said Matanov left his parents and brothers behind and had no family in the U.S.
“He’s very frightened – very frightened,” Hayden said, adding that Matanov spoke with investigators several times but never tried to slip away and was surprised when authorities arrived Friday to arrest him.
Matanov and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were friends who discussed religion and hiked up a mountain in New Hampshire in order to praise and emulate the training of the mujahedeen, the indictment said.
Just 40 minutes after the bombing, Matanov called Tamerlan and invited him to dinner, prosecutors said. That night, the Tsarnaev brothers dined with Matanov.
Afterward, prosecutors said, Matanov told an unnamed witness that he could support the bombings for a “just reason” – for example, if they were 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.
Prosecutors said Matanov asked a friend to destroy his cellphones after the Tsarnaevs were identified as suspects, but that friend refused.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges and is awaiting trial. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a gunbattle with police days after the bombings.