Book planned on burial of marathon bombing suspect

BOSTON — After Peter Stefan offered to handle funeral arrangements for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, he was besieged by criticism, picketers and angry phone calls from people who called him a “traitor” and “un-American.”

A year later, Stefan is writing a book about his experience.

“I just wanted to put down exactly what happened and what I felt like. I got loads of threats,” Stefan said Wednesday.

“But you can’t just bury people who are on the straight and narrow. What are you going to do with the rest of them? We’re not barbarians here. We bury the dead.”

Stefan, the owner of a Worcester funeral home, said he still feels disturbed by the reaction he got when he agreed to take the remains of Tamerlan Tsarnaev last year after a funeral home in North Attleborough, where the body was initially sent, was picketed by protesters.

Stefan’s funeral home was also picketed and it took days to find a cemetery willing to bury the remains. Tsarnaev was finally buried in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Va.

Stefan said he did not accept payment for his services but asked, instead, for a contribution to a fund he set up five years ago to help low-income people pay for their prescription drugs and co-pays for doctor visits. Tsarnaev’s uncle contributed $1,500 to the fund, Stefan said.

The funeral director said he has been working on the book for a few months and is currently negotiating with a publisher. He hopes the book — tentatively titled “Last Rites for the Boston Marathon Bomber” — will be published this summer. Stefan’s plans for the book were first reported by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Twin bombings at the April 15, 2013, marathon killed three people and injured more than 260. Authorities say Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, built two pressure cooker bombs and placed them near the marathon finish line.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is currently awaiting trial.

Boston Bombing suspect: Can’t use ‘betrayal’ argument

BOSTON — Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say federal prosecutors shouldn’t be allowed to use his status as a new American citizen to argue that his alleged “betrayal” of the United States is one reason he should be put to death.

In a court filing Thursday, Tsarnaev’s lawyers say prosecutors are trying to use Tsarnaev’s foreign birth and immigration history against him. They say citing his status as a newly naturalized U.S. citizen implies he is “more deserving of the death penalty” than a native-born person who commits the same crime.

Tsarnaev is awaiting trial on 30 federal charges in the 2013 marathon bombing. Twin bombs placed near the finish line of the marathon ripped into crowds gathered to watch the annual event, killing three people and injuring more than 260. At least 16 people lost limbs.

“Resentment of Tsarnaev’s immigration status and history is perhaps natural, given the nature of the crimes charged, and it is surely very widespread. But the fact that he had only recently become a citizen, standing alone, does not increase his moral or legal guilt, and it should not be permitted,” Tsarnaev’s lawyers argue in the motion.

Running the Boston Marathon in a hijab

April 19, 2014

 

Like many participants in the Boston Marathon on Monday, Leanne Scorzoni will be running to honor the victims of last year’s bombing. But Scorzoni will also be running in a hijab: she converted to Islam after the attack, and wants her participation to emphasize that Boston’s Muslim community was also hurt by the bombings.

Scorzoni has never run the race before, but the thirty-two-year-old Boston native has watched from the sidelines for decades. Scorzoni was raised in nearby Danvers, and every year her family would arrive at a spot near the corner of Clarendon and Boylston Streets at about 8:30 A.M., sometimes bringing pots and pans to help cheer on marathoners.

Last year, Scorzoni staked out the same spot near the finish line and waited to be joined by a friend of hers named Sam. Unfamiliar with Marathon Monday tradition, he arrived late and, at about 2:30 P.M., he asked where the nearest bathroom was. Scorzoni was reluctant to give up her view of the race, but eventually agreed to guide her friend through the crowds. When the bombs exploded at 2:50, the two were browsing at a nearby Banana Republic on Newbury Street, approximately four blocks away from the finish line. The store’s loud music muffled the blasts, but when Scorzoni turned on her cell phone, she found dozens of texts from friends and family, asking where she was and if she was O.K.—she had been standing less than two blocks away from the initial explosion. Scorzoni doesn’t believe a divine power carried her away from the attack that killed three people and injured more than two hundred and sixty: “It was because my friend had to pee,” she said.

The next day, Scorzoni says, local F.B.I. agents visited her at her job at Massachusetts General Hospital, where they asked about a photo she had uploaded to Facebook of Sam, who is Muslim and from the Middle East. Shaken by the bombing and the encounter with the F.B.I., Scorzoni regularly checked in on her Muslim friends in the days after the bombing. As the media began to sort out the background of the Tsarnaev brothers, local reports also began to surface of sporadic verbal and physical attacks on Muslims, and of hate mail being sent to mosques, including the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, in Roxbury, which the Los AngelesTimes originally reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had attended, confusing it with the Islamic Society of Boston, located in Cambridge. Scorzoni read about the letters on the center’s Facebook page, but she also saw the many comments of support that came from across the country.

Five weeks after the bombing, she called Suhaib Webb, the imam of the I.S.B.C.C., and told him that she was ready to convert. She walked to the mosque in jeans, a shirt, and flip-flops; after the ceremony, she and Sam celebrated just as casually, eating watermelon and chicken fingers on the mosque’s steps.

The I.S.B.C.C. has been a visible force in the local Muslim community’s efforts to support victims of the bombing. Last Friday, the I.S.B.C.C. organized a khutbah, or sermon, in remembrance of victims, and, on Tuesday, Webb spoke at a night of “Remembrance and Hope” at the Old South Church. Scorzoni was also in attendance and, at one point during the evening, runners were asked to stand. “Everyone started clapping, and all the runners just started crying, and soon everyone was crying,” she said. “Everyone in the church prayed for all of us, not even just the runners—prayed for the city.”

The New Yorker.com: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sportingscene/2014/04/running-the-boston-marathon-in-a-hijab.html

Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security chief, cites threat as some travel to fight in Syrian civil war

February 7, 2014

 

Delivering his first policy address since taking office in December, Johnson covered a broad range of topics, from appropriate uses of force by Customs and Border Protection agents to declining worker morale at Homeland Security, which has consistently received some of the lowest scores in the federal government’s annual worker-satisfaction survey.

The secretary noted that his morning intelligence briefings range in scope from “the latest terrorist plotting to a weather map,” adding that his department must constantly evolve to answer national security threats and hazards.

“Syria has become a matter of homeland security,” said Johnson, 56, the fourth Senate-confirmed secretary of Homeland Security.

Johnson said people from North America and Europe are traveling to war-torn Syria to fight, adding that “they will encounter radical, extremist influences” and possibly return to their home countries with the intent to do harm.

He also discussed home-grown terrorism, saying: “We face threats from those who self-radicalize to violence, the so-called ‘lone wolf,’ who did not train at an al-Qaeda camp overseas or become part of an enemy force, but who may be inspired by radical, violent ideology to do harm to Americans.”

He noted the Boston Marathon bombings in April that killed three people and wounded more than 200 others. The attacks were allegedly carried out by two brothers living in the United States who spent time in Muslim-dominated parts of Central Asia. One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police, and the Justice Department has said it will seek the death penalty against the other, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

 

Washington Post.com: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/jeh-johnson-homeland-security-chief-cites-threat-as-some-travel-to-fight-in-syrian-civil-war/2014/02/07/b1e8635e-9038-11e3-b227-12a45d109e03_story.html

Muslim who says she was fired for refusing flu shot sues Children’s Hospital Boston

February 4, 2014

 

A former Children’s Hospital Boston employee who said she was fired because her Islamic beliefs prohibited her from getting a mandatory flu shot sued the hospital today.

Leontine Robinson says in her complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Boston that her civil rights were violated because the hospital “intentionally discriminated against (her) due to her religious beliefs.” Some Muslims refuse flu shots because they contain a small amount of pork gelatine — a violation, the abstainers contend, of restrictions on consuming pork products.

Robinson, according to her complaint, worked in patient care at Children’s for about a year before a flu shot requirement was instituted in 2006. Hospital managers had known she was a Muslim when they hired her, the suit suggests, noting that she wore a traditional Muslim head-covering for women.

 

Boston Business Journal: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/news/2014/02/04/muslim-who-says-she-was-fired-for.html

U.S. to seek death penalty in Boston bombing case

January 30, 2014

 

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old man whom prosecutors have accused of bombing the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200 others.
“The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a short statement. The announcement ended months of speculation over the issue. Although Holder has said that he is personally opposed to the death penalty, the bombing was among the worst terrorist attacks in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings.

The decision sets the stage for the biggest federal capital murder case since Timothy McVeigh went on trial for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police in April, constructed and set off homemade bombs near the finish line of the marathon, according to investigators. Tsarnaev faces multiple counts in the April 15 bombing and is also accused of killing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer in the days after the attack.

The case is in its early stages, and prosecutors could yet use the threat of death to strike a plea bargain with the young man and avoid a lengthy trial with bombing victims taking the stand to recount the attack. Since 1964, the federal government has executed only three people, including McVeigh. The Tsarnaev brothers came to the United States in 2002 from the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Authorities have said Tamerlan Tsarnaev came under the influence of radical Islam and probably recruited his brother to help him with the bombing, a possible line of defense if the case goes to trial.

After the bombing, investigators said a friend linked the older brother to a gruesome triple homicide in Waltham, Mass. Ibragim Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter, said the older brother was connected to the killings in which three men had their throats slashed. During a May interview in Florida, authorities said that Todashev attacked an FBI agent. The FBI agent shot and killed the Chechen American. The senior FBI official said the agent who killed Todashev was acting in self-defense and described it as a “clean shoot.” But the FBI has not made public the results of an internal review into the shooting or a larger review that examined the attack.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-to-seek-death-penalty-in-boston-bombing-case/2014/01/30/c15465d8-8785-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html

CNN’s Stelter: Media May Have ‘Overreacted’ to Boston Bombing, Cites ‘Low Number of Deaths and Injuries’

December 29, 2013

By Tommy Christopher

 

During another of the incessant end-of-year recap segments on cable TV these days, CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter delivered what he felt would be “an unpopular opinion” to CNN Newsroom host Carol Costello Friday. In a discussion of the media’s coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombing, Stelter said “I wonder if there was an overreaction in the press, considering the relatively low number of deaths and injuries.”

The segment was pegged to partisan bias, with Newsmax‘s Steve Malzberg arguing that the media tried to downplay the involvement of radical Islam as motive, and Media MattersEric Boehlert reminding the panel of the rush to judgment that caused innocent people to be smeared in the press by the likes of the New York Post and Glenn Beck. Stelter, though, ventured far afield of the premise to offer what he acknowledged “might be an unpopular opinion.”

“I wonder if the press, overall, in retrospect, overreacted to the attacks in Boston,” Stelter said. “It was a very scary week. I was scared, along with the rest of the country. In retrospect, I wonder if there was an overreaction in the press, considering the relatively low number of deaths and injuries, whether it was taken out of proportion, given all the other violence we see all the time.”

He concluded, “Because the word ‘terrorism’ was applied, I think there may have been an overreaction.”

Where this segment, and media criticism in general, goes wrong is in focusing on the “bias” angle, instead of on the more serious problem of just plain bad reporting. In an act of pure generosity, none of the panelists brought up CNN’s own disastrous reporting of a “dark-skinned” suspect with “brown skin” who was definitely in custody, until he wasn’t.

Partisan bias is an interesting topic, but it shouldn’t eclipse the reason journalism is supposed to exist in the first place: to truthfully inform the public, in the public’s interest. The Boston Marathon Bombing, and this segment in particular, prove that the “view from nowhere” can be as toxic to the truth as anything else.

 

Mediaite.com: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/cnns-stelter-media-may-have-overreacted-to-boston-bombing-cites-low-number-of-deaths-and-injuries/

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect seeking family testimony, immigration records

November 7, 2013

 

Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect seeking family testimony, immigration records
Tsarnaev’s lawyers say prosecutors should turn over all of the materials they have to give a full picture of Tsarnaev as Attorney General Eric Holder decides whether to seek the death penalty and possibly for a jury “to see Mr. Tsarnaev as a complete human being who should not be sentenced to death.”

In a memo filed in court last month, prosecutors said many of Tsarnaev’s requests for evidence are premature because a death penalty hearing in the case is not imminent. Prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz have not said whether they have recommended seeking the death penalty to Holder.

Tsarnaev is charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and 29 other federal charges in the April 15 bombing. Authorities say Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan, 26, built pressure cooker bombs and placed them near the finish line, killing three people and injured more than 260. Seventeen of the charges carry a possible death penalty.

The Tsarnaevs, ethnic Chechens from Russia, moved to the United States as children. Authorities have said that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote about his motivation for the bombing on the inside of a boat he was found hiding in after the shootout with police.

“The U.S. Government is killing our innocent civilians” and “We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all,” he allegedly wrote.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers say prosecutors continue to withhold reports and testimony concerning Tsarnaev’s family, including immigration files they say contain information important to defend Tsarnaev and to argue mitigating factors during sentencing. They say that even after getting signed releases from certain Tsarnaev family members, immigration authorities have refused to release their files, citing the ongoing investigation.

His lawyers also said they believe numerous law enforcement interviews of teachers, neighbors, classmates and friends of Tsarnaev have not been turned over by prosecutors.

 

The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/lawyers-for-boston-marathon-bombing-suspect-seeking-family-testimony-to-give-full-picture/2013/11/07/c13e7114-47ee-11e3-95a9-3f15b5618ba8_story.html

‘You’re a Stooge and a Frontman!’:Hannity Guest Explodes at Million Muslim March Organizer

If you thought things got heated during last week’s Hannity discussion on the Million Muslim March, tonight took things to an entirely new level. Chris Phillips, one of the organizers of the march faced off in a contentious back and forth with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which advocated for the “separation of mosque and state.”

Phillips said the march is not only about supporting “victimized” Muslims in the United States, but also the innocent Muslims who have died all over the world since 9/11. Asked for an example of how America “villain-izes” Muslims, Phillips asked Hannity, “aren’t you villain-izing them with this broadcast? These people are not radical Islamists. these are innocent Americans practicing their constitutional liberties, brother.”

“I haven’t met a Muslim that isn’t offended by the exploitation of 9/11,” Jasser said when it was his turn to speak. He suggested renaming the upcoming event, “How to radicalize Muslims in one march.” Calling the march a 9/11 “truther movement,” he accused Phillips of promoting the same ideology that produced the Boston Marathon bombing and the Fort Hood attack.

Hannity proceeded to bring up a picture of him dressed as a clown that Phillips posted online. “How would you feel if someone did that to the Prophet Mohammad?”

“I don’t worship Islam and I would be offended if friends of mine were offended,” Phillips said, shocking the other two men. “I’m not a Muslim.”

“So you’re a stooge,” Jasser responded. “You’re a stooge and front man for an organization that is destroying the mission to fight radical Islam around the globe.”

Muslim youths plan peace rally

BOSTON (AP) — A group of Muslim youths is planning a rally on Boston Common, saying they want to emphasize that true Islam is a religion of peace.

 

The organizers of the Muslims for Peace rally Sunday afternoon say they’re responding to recent violence, including the Boston Marathon bombings in April and the killing of a soldier in London in May. Both incidents have been linked to Islamic extremists.

 

The group, which includes many youths who attend the Islamic Society of Boston mosque, says it wants to clear up misconceptions about Islam. It says it also wants to stress that the people accused in the crimes are responsible for their own actions and don’t represent Islam.

 

About 100 youth are expected to show up at the rally, which will include signs, chants and speeches.