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FBI wanted Boston Marathon bombing suspect as informant, defense says

| Friday, March 28, 2014, 9:15 p.m.
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2010, photo, Tamerlan Tsarnaev smiles after accepting the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship in Lowell, Mass. Tsarnaev is the Boston Marathon bombing suspect who was killed in a police shootout. His uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, told The Associated Press Friday, May 10, 2013, that the body was buried in Virginia with the help of a “faith coalition.” (AP Photo/The Lowell Sun, Julia Malakie, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

BOSTON — Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers asked a judge on Friday to order federal prosecutors to turn over evidence related to his family as they try to build a case that his older brother was the “main instigator” behind the deadly attack.

The defense team is seeking a host of records from prosecutors, including any evidence to support its claim the FBI had asked Tamerlan Tsarnaev to be an informant.

In a court filing, Dzhokhar's lawyers said they want records of all FBI contact with Tamerlan, based on information from the Tsarnaev family and unidentified other sources that the FBI asked Tamerlan to be an informant on the Chechen and Muslim community.

The Boston FBI office declined to comment on the claims made in the court filing but cited a statement it released in October in which it said the Tsarnaev brothers were never sources for the FBI, “nor did the FBI attempt to recruit them as sources.”

Twin explosions at the April 15 marathon killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Tamerlan, 26, died in a shootout with police four days after the attack. Dzhokhar, who was 19 at the time of the bombings, was captured soon after his brother's death and has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction.

More than half the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty. His trial is scheduled to begin in November.

Dzhokhar's lawyers, in their filing, note that a report released this week by the House Homeland Security Committee suggests that government agents monitored Tamerlan and his communications during 2011 and possibly 2012. The report said the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted a threat assessment of Tamerlan, an ethnic Chechen, in response to a 2011 alert from the Russian government that he was becoming radicalized.

Dzhokhar's lawyers wrote: “Any surveillance, evidence, or interviews showing that Tamerlan's pursuit of jihad predated Dzhokhar's would tend to support the theory that Tamerlan was the main instigator of the tragic events.”

Prosecutors say the Tsarnaev brothers planted bombs near the marathon's finish line.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers say that if a jury convicts him, its decision on whether to give him the death penalty “could well turn on how it apportions the brothers' relative responsibility for conceiving and carrying out the attacks.”

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