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Accused Boston Bomber's Friend Due To Speak In Court

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[June 02, 2014]  BOSTON (Reuters) - A friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber charged with obstructing the probe of the deadly blasts is expected to tell a judge on Monday that his statements - after being taken to the police station half naked and in handcuffs - were not voluntary.

Kazakh national Dias Kadyrbayev is one of three college friends of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev charged with hampering the investigation by going to the suspect's dormitory room three days after the attack and removing a laptop and backpack containing empty fireworks shells.

During four days of hearings at U.S. District Court in Boston last month, law enforcement officials testified that four days after the April 15, 2013, blasts that killed three people, armed federal agents ordered Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov to leave their apartment and took them to a state police barracks where they were subjected to hours of questioning.

Kadyrbayev was told to remove his shirt to make sure he had no hidden weapons, and his lawyer said he was never given an opportunity to put it back on and complained of being cold during questioning.

Kadyrbayev's lawyers argue his statements during that time should not be admitted at his coming trial because he had no attorney present and did not understand the consequences of speaking with agents. One agent testified that Kadyrbayev told him he suspected Tsarnaev had been involved in the attack.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock allowed Kadyrbayev's attorneys to make that case on the condition that their client take the witness stand and submit to cross-examination by federal prosecutors. Tazhayakov's attorneys dropped a similar request, saying they did not want their client to testify ahead of a trial scheduled to start in September.

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Woodlock also warned prosecutors he would declare a mistrial in the cases of Tazhayakov and a third friend, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, if he found that their statements to police had not been voluntary.

Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both charged with obstruction of justice, could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted. Phillipos faces up to 16 years if convicted of the less serious charge of lying to investigators.

Tsarnaev, who is also accused of killing a university police officer in a shootout three days after the bombings that also injured 264 people, is awaiting trial in a prison west of Boston. He faces the possibility of execution if convicted.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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