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Obstruction Trial in Boston Bombing Focuses on Web Searches

FILE - Defendants Azamat Tazhayakov (R) and Dias Kadyrbayev are pictured in a courtroom sketch, appearing in front of a Federal Magistrate at the United States Federal Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, May 1, 2013.

Testimony in the trial of a friend of the accused Boston Marathon bomber focused Thursday on the man's Internet searches after the deadly April 2013 blasts.

FBI computer specialist James Scripture testified that the friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, spent hours searching for news reports and videos of the bombing, while defense attorneys sought to portray that behavior as not at all unusual.

“Agent Scripture, are you familiar with the term 'surfing the Web?’” - defense attorney Diane Ferrone asked during cross-examination at the fourth day of Tazhayakov's trial on charges of obstruction of justice.

Scripture said he was. Noting that he had also shown that Tazhayakov read CNN coverage of the police manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, she asked, “did you do any research to see how many millions of people visited this website at that time?”

“No,” Scripture replied.

Kazakh exchange student Tazhayakov is the first of three friends of Tsarnaev to face trial on charges of obstructing the investigation into the bombing by removing a laptop and backpack containing empty fireworks shells from the suspected bomber's dorm room three days after the blasts.

Ethnic Chechens Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, who died fleeing authorities, were suspected in the April 15 attack that killed three people and wounded 264.

Attorneys for Tazhayakov, 20, argued at the start of the trial this week that he never touched the items, but that his friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, also 20 and from Kazakhstan, removed both from Tsarnaev's room at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and later threw the backpack into a dumpster.

On Wednesday, prosecutors played a video deposition from Kadyrbayev's girlfriend in which she said she had urged him to dispose of the backpack.

Jurors on Thursday also were shown television news footage of the two bombs detonating at the race's crowded finish line, which were retrieved from Tazhayakov's laptop.

Tazhayakov could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Kadyrbayev faces the same charges.

A third man, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is accused of the lesser charge of lying to investigators.

Trials for Kadyrbayev and Phillipos are scheduled for later this year. Tsarnaev is awaiting his trial, set for November, on charges that carry the death penalty if convicted.