WORCESTER, Mass. (TheBlaze/AP) — A funeral director trying to find a cemetery to take the body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev is going next to the city where Tsarnaev lived, but will run into another obstacle: It doesn’t want him. The debate has spawned an obvious question: Does the alleged terrorist deserve to be buried on U.S. soil?
Worcester funeral director Peter Stefan said he plans to ask the city of Cambridge to provide a plot because he hasn’t been able to find a cemetery in Massachusetts willing to accept Tsarnaev’s remains. He said if Cambridge turns him down, he will seek help from state officials.
Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy said in a statement Sunday that he is urging the funeral director and Tsarnaev’s family not to request a burial permit for the city-owned cemetery.
“The difficult and stressful efforts of the citizens of the City of Cambridge to return to a peaceful life would be adversely impacted by the turmoil, protests, and wide spread media presence at such an interment,” Healy said.
The dilemma over where to bury the 26-year-old suspect comes as a friend of his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev heads to court Monday for a bail hearing on charges that he lied to federal investigators after the bombings.
Defense attorneys said in court documents filed Saturday that they will ask a federal judge to release Robel Phillipos of Cambridge from jail. They said he had nothing to do with the deadly bombings and isn’t a flight risk.
Phillipos, 19, was charged last week with lying to investigators about visiting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s college dorm room on April 18, three days after the bombings. Two other friends were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by taking a backpack with fireworks and a laptop from Tsarnaev’s dorm room. All four had studied at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Phillipos faces a maximum of eight years behind bars and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
The Tsarnaev brothers are accused of carrying out the April 15 bombing, which used pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails, ball bearings and metal shards. The attack killed three people and injured more than 260 others near the marathon’s finish line.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died after a gunfight with police on April 19. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and remains in a prison hospital. He has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and faces a potential death sentence if convicted.
Healey said there has been no formal application for a permit or purchase of a cemetery plot for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and that it would not be in the best interest of the city to execute a deed for a plot.
Healey said the families who have loved ones interred at the cemetery also deserve to have their deceased family members rest in peace. He said other federal agencies should take the lead in the burial.
Stefan did not immediately return a call Sunday night seeking comment on Healy’s statement.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Md., and three of his friends met with Stefan on Sunday and prepared to wash and shroud Tsarnaev’s body according to Muslim tradition.
Tsarni told reporters that he is arranging for Tsarnaev’s burial because religion and tradition call for his nephew to be buried. He would like him buried in Massachusetts because he’s lived in the state for the last decade, he said.
“I’m dealing with logistics. A dead person must be buried,” he said.
He said he was grateful to Stefan for agreeing to arrange the burial and to his friends for accompanying him to Massachusetts to aid with the funeral.
“These are my friends who feel for me … as I do understand no one wants to associate their names with such evil events,” he said.
Tsarnaev, who had appeared in surveillance photos wearing a black cap, was identified by authorities as Suspect No. 1.
Stefan said he has received calls from people criticizing him and calling him “un-American” for being willing to handle Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s funeral.
“We take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No,” he said. “We are burying a dead body. That’s what we do.”
A half-dozen protesters gathered outside the funeral home Sunday holding signs and American flags and chanting “USA!” One sign read: “Do not bury him on U.S. soil.” Several people drove by the funeral home earlier Sunday and yelled, including one man who shouted, “Throw him off a boat like Osama bin Laden!”
The state medical examiner ruled that Tsarnaev died from gunshot wounds and blunt trauma to his head and torso, and authorities have said his brother ran him over in a chaotic getaway attempt. Stefan said Sunday that the family won’t request that an independent medical examiner perform a second autopsy, but representatives from the family’s legal team might photograph Tsarnaev’s body before it’s washed.
Tsarni has denounced the acts his nephews are accused of committing and has said they brought shame to the family and the entire Chechen ethnicity. The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia who came to the United States about a decade ago with their parents. Both parents returned to Dagestan last year.
Tsarni said Sunday that he hopes to eventually see Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at his prison hospital.
“This is another person left all to himself,” he said.
In other developments:
- The FBI on Sunday conducted a court-authorized search in Cambridge as part of its ongoing investigation into the bombings, said Jason Pack, a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s press office. He declined to elaborate further.
- The administrator of the charity One Fund Boston was to hold a public meeting Monday evening with victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. The fund has raised more than $28 million.
- Charity watchdog groups have warned the public that tens of thousands of dollars have been raised in online fundraising campaigns that some recipients knew nothing about and did not endorse. They urged people to be aware of possible scams or misuse of money.
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