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By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

Three friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be tried separately, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday, while rejecting a defense bid to move the proceedings out of Massachusetts.

U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock in Boston ruled on a variety of motions filed on behalf of Azamat Tazhayakov, Dias Kadyrbayev and Robel Phillipos.

Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev and Phillipos will be tried on June 30, Sept. 8, and Sept. 29, respectively, Christina Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston, told the Los Angeles Times.

Woodlock rejected arguments by the defense that none of the trio could receive a fair trial in Massachusetts because of the heightened emotions caused by last year’s Boston Marathon bombings. Three people were killed and more than 260 injured in the two blasts near the race’s finish line. An MIT police officer was killed in the manhunt for suspects that followed the attack.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is being held in near-total lockdown, faces federal charges that could lead to the death penalty if he is convicted for his alleged role in the attack. His brother, Tamerlan, died during the manhunt.

Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev have pleaded not guilty to charges that they obstructed justice by allegedly removing a backpack containing fireworks and a laptop computer from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. They are both Kazakhstan nationals and are being held without bail.

Phillipos is charged with lying to investigators about the alleged removal of the items. He has also pleaded not guilty, but is free on bail.

In court papers, Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev, who were in the United States on student visas, contended they were unfamiliar with American law and had weak English skills. Phillipos has said he was incapacitated because had been smoking marijuana all day at the time of interviews.

All face as much as 20 years in prison if convicted of the top charge. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev also could be deported if they are convicted.

AFP photo

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