Washington: Boston bombing suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev has been charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property in the US and could face the death penalty if convicted, the Attorney General's office said on Tuesday.
The charges came as the White House said on Monday that Tsarnaev is not an 'enemy combatant' and as a US citizen cannot be tried under military laws. "He is not an enemy combatant. We will prosecute him under the existing law. When it comes to US citizens it is against the law to try them under military conditions," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily news conference.
"The whole national security team supports this decision," Carney said responding to questions on the decision of the Obama Administration not to treat the Boston bombing suspect as an enemy combatant, which has been criticised by top Republican lawmakers.
Tsarnaev, who was arrested after days of a massive manhunt on Friday, had his initial court appearance on Monday from his hospital room, where he is reported to be in serious condition due to throat injuries.
In a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday in US District Court in Massachusetts, Tsarnaev is charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely, an improvised explosive device or IED) against persons and property within the United States resulting in death.
He has also been charged with another count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death. The statutory charges authorise a penalty, upon conviction, of death or imprisonment for life for any term of years.
Three people died and more than 200 were injured when two bombs exploded in quick succession at the Boston Marathon, last week. The police has identified Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old elder brother Tamerlan, as the suspects. Tamerlan, said to be the mastermind, died in a police gunfight on Thursday.