A federal jury has found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty on all 30 charges for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds two years ago this month. Tsarnaev was also convicted in the murder of a police officer in the ensuing days. Bombing survivor Karen Brassard welcomed the verdict.
Karen Brassard: “We just, as a group, we wanted to come out and say thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen. We’re obviously grateful for the outcome today. It’s not a happy occasion, but it’s something that we can put one more step behind us.”
During the trial, Tsarnaev’s defense attorneys admitted he joined his older brother, Tamerlan, in setting off two explosions. The jury will now choose between the death penalty and a sentence of life without parole. Massachusetts bars the death penalty, but the case is taking place at the federal level.
Protests are underway in South Carolina over a white police officer’s fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American man who was running away. On Wednesday, dozens of people rallied outside of North Charleston City Hall. The victim, Walter Scott, had been stopped for having a broken brake light, which protesters say was part of a pattern of harassment of African Americans over minor offenses. The officer, Michael Slager, was fired by the police force on Wednesday one day after his indictment for murder.
Police had initially backed officer Michael Slager’s claim that he feared for his life. But they were forced to retract after a witness came forward with video of the shooting. Speaking at City Hall, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey announced a new order for body cameras.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey: “We received a grant to purchase 101 body cameras. Those body cameras are on order. Today, I made an executive decision and have notified my council. We have already ordered this morning an additional 150 body cameras so that every officer that’s on the street in uniform will have a body camera.”
The witness who filmed the video of the Walter Scott police shooting has spoken out for the first time. In an interview with NBC News, Feidin Santana said he felt a duty to hand the video over to Scott’s family.
Feidin Santana: “I thought about his position, their situation. If I would have a family member and that would happen, I would like to know the truth about all this. And that was the reason I returned the information, the video, to them.”
In Yemen, Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Houthi rebels are continuing amid fierce fighting in the city of Aden, the former stronghold of ousted President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. There are reports of rockets landing on people’s homes. The World Health Organization reports at least 643 people have been killed and more than 2,200 wounded since the conflict between Houthis and forces loyal to Hadi erupted on March 19. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is facing criticism for failing to evacuate its citizens from Yemen, despite backing the Saudi-led bombing campaign. We will have more on this story later in the broadcast.
Iran has asked Pakistan to reject involvement in the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen. The Saudi government sought Pakistan’s help this week in what was seen as a prelude to a potential ground invasion. Speaking during a visit in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said only a political solution can end Yemen’s crisis. Zarif said: “We need to work together in order to put an end to the crisis in Yemen. People of Yemen should not suffer from aerial bombardment. We need to find a political solution in Yemen, a comprehensive political solution leading to an inclusive government through Yemeni dialogue, through dialogue among people of Yemen, and we agreed that we need to put an end to the fighting and what is happening today in Yemen.”
Secretary of State John Kerry has called out Iran for what he says is Tehran’s heavy backing of Houthi rebels in Yemen. Speaking to PBS, Kerry said the United States will not tolerate countries that “engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries and other countries.”
Secretary of State John Kerry: “We’re very concerned about what’s going on there, and it’s just not a fact. They have been. There are obviously supplies that have been coming from Iran. There are a number of flights every single week that have been flying in, and we trace those flights, and we know this. We’re well aware of the support that Iran has been giving to Yemen. And Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage, you know, in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries and other countries.”
Kerry’s comments come one day after the Pentagon said it would expedite U.S. weapons shipments to aid the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is calling for immediate access to the Syrian refugee camp of Yarmouk, which is under siege by the Islamic State. The Red Cross said emergency medical care is urgently needed for residents trapped by violence and lacking basics like water. A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the situation in Yarmouk is dire.
Stéphane Dujarric: “The situation in the camp remains extremely tense with street fighting continuing and unconfirmed reports of aerial bombardments of civilian areas. UNRWA remains extremely alarmed at the sustained hostilities as they continue to inflict unimaginable pain and suffering to the 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian men, women and children trapped inside Yarmouk, who survive under constant threat of armed violence and remain unable to safely access water, food and basic healthcare.”
Three U.S. soldiers have been wounded in Afghanistan after coming under fire from an Afghan counterpart. The shooting in Kabul followed a meeting between Afghan and U.S. officials. Three American contractors were killed by an Afghan soldier in January.
A high court in Pakistan has ordered criminal charges against two CIA officials for a deadly drone strike in 2009. John Rizzo, the CIA’s former acting counsel, and Jonathan Bank, the agency’s ex-station chief, would face charges including murder, terrorism and conspiracy. Bank fled Pakistan in 2010 after his cover was blown. Pakistani authorities had lobbied against the case, saying it could jeopardize ties with the United States. It will be up to police to formally file the charges. The court’s action follows a five-year campaign by Karim Khan, who lost his teenage son and brother in the 2009 attack. In a statement, Khan said: “[This is] a victory for all those innocent civilians killed in US-led drone strikes. As a citizen of Pakistan I feel somewhat reaffirmed that perhaps people like me from Waziristan might also be able to get justice for the wrongs being done to them.”
Human rights advocates and family members of victims are celebrating a pair of victories in long campaigns to deport Salvadoran generals accused of U.S.-backed atrocities. On Wednesday, former General Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova was deported to El Salvador from the U.S., ending a 16-year legal battle. In a ruling last month, the Board of Immigration Appeals found there is ample evidence General Vides was complicit in the rape and murder of four U.S. churchwomen in 1980, as well as the torture of political prisoners. He is the highest-ranking foreign military leader to be deported under a 2004 law barring human rights violators from U.S. soil. Vides was a close U.S. government ally during his stint as defense minister for the Salvadoran junta between 1983 and 1989. The churchwomen’s families have fought for years to hold him and other U.S.-backed Salvadoran officials responsible.
The U.S. government has moved to deport another Salvadoran general wanted in Spain. A U.N. inquiry has named Inocente Orlando Montano as among the top military officials who approved the murder plot that led to the 1989 slaying of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and the housekeeper’s daughter. The Jesuits had been outspoken advocates for the poor and critics of human rights abuses committed by the U.S.-backed ARENA government. Montano lived in Boston for about a decade before being arrested in 2011. He was sentenced in 2013 on charges of immigration fraud for lying about his background. Prosecutors say he came to the United States in part to avoid being brought to justice for the Jesuits’ murders. He is among 20 Salvadoran officials who have been indicted by a Spanish court.
President Obama has endorsed a call to ban so-called conversion therapy for transgender people. The move came in response to a petition launched after the suicide of Leelah Alcorn late last year. Alcorn was a 17-year-old transgender woman who walked into traffic after leaving a suicide note describing how she suffered from conversion therapy and attempts by her Christian parents to change her. More than 120,000 people have signed the petition in three months. In a statement, the White House said: “We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth. As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”