BOSTON - Two college friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of impeding investigators pursuing the perpetrators of the deadly finish-line attack.
Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both 19-year-olds from Kazakhstan, had been indicted by a grand jury Thursday of obstructing justice with the intent of impeding the investigation into the April 15 attack that left three dead and scores injured.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov's parents were present when they appeared before federal judge Marion Bowler in orange prison jumpsuits.
Their next day in court was set for September 26. Federal prosecutor Stephanie Seligmann said 15 to 20 witnesses would testify during a trial expected to last two weeks.
If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov could face up to 20 years in prison and the prospect of deportation from the United States.
The grand jury indictment stems from the Boston-wide manhunt for brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who allegedly planted two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the world-famous foot race.
Prompted by a text message from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to go to his college dormitory room and "take what's there," Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov - together with a third conspirator - removed a laptop computer, fireworks and other items, prosecutors have asserted.
They then allegedly took the items to their apartment in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where the items were subsequently stuffed into a garbage bag and put in a dumpster outside, the US attorney's office said.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed amid a shootout with police later that night, while his younger brother - who has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts including murder - was later arrested hiding inside a small boat in a nearby backyard.
Kadyrbayev's lawyer Robert Stahl said Tuesday his young client, "from a former Soviet bloc region where police routinely are distrusted," had cooperated fully with investigators, answering FBI questions for 12 hours over two days without a lawyer or Kazakh diplomat present.
"He and his family hope that the tragedy and sheer violence of the bombing will not blind justice, that the American justice system will prevail, and that his innocence will be proven at trial."