Opening statements are scheduled for Monday in the case against Azamat Tazhayakov, the first of the four friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to face trial.

Tazhayakov is charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice for allegedly agreeing with another college friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, to remove Tsarnaev’s backpack from his dorm room after learning he was a suspect in the bombing.  Tazhayakov faces decades in prison if convicted.

Kadyrbayev, who faces a separate trial in September, is accused of throwing out the backpack, which contained fireworks that had been emptied of black powder, a bomb-making ingredient. A third college friend, Robel Phillipos, is accused of lying to authorities.

A fourth friend, Khairullozhon Matanov, is accused of lying to the FBI, particularly about the contact he had with the Tsarnaevs after the bombings, including dinner at a restaurant the night of the attack and multiple phone calls that week.

Some defense attorneys are criticizing the extent to which federal prosecutors have charged the men, who are not accused of participating in the attack or knowing about it beforehand.

“No matter what the facts are, I think the U.S. attorney’s office may be a little overzealous in how harshly they are treating these cases,” said Christopher Dearborn, a professor at Suffolk University Law School.

“It’s to send the message that we’re tough on crime and very tough on terrorism, but at what price?” said Randy Chapman, a former president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. “How does that resemble fairness?”

Others say prosecutors are not only justified but also have an obligation to charge anyone they believe impedes a terrorism investigation.

“You charge them to send a message: You don’t lie to investigators when they are trying to solve a terror investigation,” said Gerry Leone, a former state and federal prosecutor.

Do you think prosecutors being too tough on the four friends of Tsarnaev, or are the charges appropriate? Share your comments below, and watch for them on WBZ News in the Morning from 4:30 to 7:00 a.m.


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