Dzhokhar Tsarnaev charged with using weapon of mass destruction

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, was charged at his hospital bed on Monday with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, a count that carries a possible death penalty.

The charges were announced a week after two devices exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 180.

A magistrate judge read the charges to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, the younger of two brothers suspected in the bombing, in a special session as he lay seriously injured in Beth Israel Deaconess hospital in Boston. According to the criminal complaint, he has gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs and hand.

A transcript of the extraordinary bedside court hearing shows that Tsarnaev was read his Miranda rights – the process in US law where a suspect is informed of his right not to incriminate himself. It appears that despite his injuries, Tsarnaev managed to speak one word: answering “no” to a question about whether he could afford a lawyer.

Tsarnaev had escaped police on Thursday night after a frenzied shootout in the Boston suburb of Watertown in which his elder brother, Tamerlan, 26, was killed. He was eventually captured on Friday evening, bloody and wounded, hiding in a boat in a suburban backyard after a day in which Boston and surrounding areas were virtually locked down.

“Although our investigation is ongoing, today’s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston, and for our country,” said the US attorney general, Eric Holder. The US attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Oritz, said the impact of the crimes had been “far-reaching, affecting a worldwide community that is looking for peace and justice”.

Rick DesLauriers, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, said the events of the week had moved at “breakneck speed” and praised the “collective effort of our law enforcement and intelligence partners”.

The charges include one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction – an improvised explosive device or IED – against persons and property within the United States resulting in death, and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device, resulting in death. US prosecutors did not announce whether they would seek the death penalty.

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