White House: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 'Will Not Be Tried as an Enemy Combatant'

Obama spokesman says it's illegal to charge U.S. citizen in military commission.


Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect apprehended Friday in connection to the Boston bombing, will not be tried in military courts.

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Despite pressure from some Republicans, the White House said Monday it will not treat the captured suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings as a so-called enemy combatant.

[PHOTOS: Boston Marathon Bombing Investigation]

"He will not be treated as an enemy combatant," said White House spokesman Jay Carney during his daily press briefing. "We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice. Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions."

In a release over the weekend, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old suspect apprehended Friday in connection to the Boston bombing, was not a "common criminal" and called him a "good candidate for enemy combatant status."

Tsarnaev, who was born in Kyrgyzstan, legally immigrated to the United States with his parents about 10 years ago and received citizenship last fall.

[READ: Senators Spar Over Immigration in Light of Boston Bombing]

"It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city," the press release from the senators said. "The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim and kill innocent Americans."

But Carney pushed back Monday, even before prosecutors officially laid charges against Tsarnaev.

"It is important to remember that since 9/11 we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists," he said. "The system has repeatedly proven that it can handle the test that we continue to face. This is absolutely the right way to go and the appropriate way to go."

Tsarnaev's brother, Tamerlan, 26, another suspect in the bombings, was killed as part of a firefight late Thursday. The two brothers are allegedly responsible for setting off two bombs last Monday at the Boston Marathon that killed three and left more than 100 seriously injured, as well as murdering a campus police officer and seriously injuring another law enforcement official last Thursday.

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