WASHINGTON, July 10 (RIA Novosti) – Suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, including murder and using a weapon of mass destruction in connection with the deadly April 15 attack that left three people dead and more than 260 injured.
In his first public appearance since he was detained days after the twin bombing, Tsarnaev rubbed his neck and adjusted his collar as he repeated “not guilty” to each of the 30 charges against him read by the clerk in a fifth-floor courtroom overflowing with media, police, victims and supporters of the suspect, the RAPSI legal news agency reported from the courtroom.
Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler required Tsarnaev to answer each of the charges for himself, refusing to allow his attorney to respond to the charges for him. At the end of the hearing, which lasted around 10 minutes, Bowler remanded Tsarnaev to the custody of US Marshals.
The next hearing in the case was scheduled for Sept. 23.
Tsarnaev, whose left hand was in a cast and his face swollen, appeared relaxed throughout the hearing, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
As he was preparing to be escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs by three bulky officers with shaved heads, Tsarnaev looked over his shoulders at his family and made a kissing motion with his lips, according to reporters present at the hearing.
Television cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom at the Joseph Moakley federal courthouse for Wednesday’s hearing.
Tsarnaev, 19, faces a 30-count indictment, including charges of killing a police officer at the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as police chased him and his brother, fellow suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in a frantic manhunt days after the bombing.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout with police in the Boston suburb of Watertown, while Dzhokhar suffered nonfatal wounds and was apprehended on April 19.
Prosecutors in the case said they expect to call between 80 and 100 witnesses and that the trial will likely last three to four months.
Inside the courtroom, several Tsarnaev supporters wearing T-shirts bearing the visage of the accused terrorist were told by security officials that such T-shirts would not be allowed in the courtroom in the future, the local Boston affiliate of Fox News reported prior to the hearing.
Victims and their relatives were present in the courtroom as well Wednesday, as were members of Tsarnaev’s family, including two sisters wearing Muslim garb, according to media reports. One of the sisters held a baby, while the other wiped away tears with a tissue during the hearing, the AP reported.
Tsarnaev’s parents, who have repeatedly proclaimed their son’s innocence, were in the restive republic of Dagestan in southern Russia on Wednesday, US media reported.
Tsarnaev could face the death penalty on 17 of the 30 charges in the indictment against him.
Security officers and the international news media were swarming outside the courthouse before and after Wednesday’s hearing, as were supporters of Tsarnaev who shouted encouragement and carried signs claiming the suspect is innocent.
A group of the slain MIT policeman’s fellow officers stood in a line across the street from the courthouse before Wednesday’s hearing to show solidarity with their fallen colleague, Sean Collier.
Numerous people became tangled with Tsarnaev supporters in verbal confrontations following the hearing, with one person yelling at the alleged terrorist’s backers: “If you don’t like this country, go back to yours,” RAPSI reported.
Police officers stepped in and told both camps to calm down, the legal news agency said.
Members of the news media and the public began lining up before 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday to secure a seat in the courtroom for the hearing. Among those hoping to get a seat were Tsarnaev’s former teammates on the wrestling team at Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school.
One of the young men, Hank Alvarez, told the AP that he had difficulty reconciling Tsarnaev’s calm, apolitical nature with the violent crimes he allegedly committed.
“Just knowing him, it’s hard for me to face the fact that he did it,” Alvarez, 19, was quoted by the AP as saying.
Russian law enforcement authorities have been cooperating with their US counterparts in the investigation of the brothers, ethnic Chechens whose family roots lie in the turbulent North Caucasus region of southern Russia.
In 2011, Russia asked the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to interview Tamerlan Tsarnaev over concerns relating to his interest in “radical Islam.” However, an FBI statement said that it “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign,” after questioning Tamerlan and members of his family at that time.
Updated with details, quotes and background throughout.