The Boston bombing suspect will be tried as a criminal and not an “enemy combatant,” Obama administration officials told The Associated Press on Monday.
Word from the White House came moments after CBS News learned that 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had officially been charged with helping execute the attack on the Boston Marathon that killed three and left over 180 injured.
The first charge is conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, the AP noted, which carries a potential death sentence. He’s likely to also face multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, both of which carry potential life sentences.
“Today’s charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston and for our country,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a prepared statement.
The announcement is sure to reinvigorate Washington’s conversation about the parallel justice system the Bush administration established to prosecute, or in some cases just indefinitely detain, individuals picked up overseas in the war on terror. The Obama administration has consistently sought to limit use of this system, especially for domestic threats, but prior efforts to try terrorism suspects in the U.S. proved too politically sensitive at the time.
However, the clearest sign of the administration’s intent to funnel terrorism suspects back into the U.S. justice system and away from the military’s courts came earlier this year, when they announced that al Qaeda spokesman and bin Laden son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will face trial in New York City.
“To violent extremists who threaten the American people and seek to undermine our way of life, this arrest sends an unmistakable message,” Holder said in January. “There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Read the criminal complaint against the Boston suspect below, embedded courtesy of Talking Points Memo. An affidavit supporting the charge follows.
An earlier version of this story said Tsarnaey would be charged as a “murderer.” The specific charges were not yet clear.