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Friend of accused Boston bomber seeks to have trial moved

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[September 23, 2014]  BOSTON (Reuters) - A friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber charged with lying to investigators has asked a judge to move his trial out of the city.

The man, Robel Phillipos, is due in court on Tuesday for a final hearing before his trial starts on Sept. 29. U.S. prosecutors contend that Phillipos and two Kazakh exchange students, who were also friends of accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, went to Tsarnaev's college dorm room three days after the April 15, 2013 bombing and removed a laptop computer and backpack containing empty fireworks shells.

One of the other two men, Azamat Tazhayakov, was found guilty in July of obstruction of justice for the visit and the second, Dias Kadyrbayev, in August pleaded guilty to that charge.

Phillipos faces the lesser charge of lying to investigators, and could face a sentence of up to 16 years in prison if convicted.

His lawyers on Monday asked U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock to move the trial out of Boston, saying the extensive news coverage of the bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260, and the cases of the two other men would make it difficult to seat an impartial jury.

Phillipos, who has been largely confined to his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home since his May 2013 arrest, is not charged with playing any role in the attack.

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Tsarnaev is awaiting a trial set to begin in November. He faces the possibility of execution if found guilty of carrying out the deadly bombing and also murdering a university police officer three days later.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Grant McCool)

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