Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to make 1st appearance in 17 months

A running shoe and US flag as part of a memorial on the Boston Marathon route in Boston on April 18, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP
A running shoe and US flag as part of a memorial on the Boston Marathon route in Boston on April 18, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is due to make his first public appearance in 17 months when he steps into court on Thursday for final preparations for his January trial.

Held in Fort Devens prison hospital around 70km from the federal court in Boston where he will face trial, 21-year-old Tsarnaev has not been seen in public since he pleaded not guilty in July 2013.

He faces the death penalty over the April 15, 2013 attacks, which were the most serious in the United States since the Sept 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda hijackings.

Two pressure-cooker bombs planted at the finish line of the Marathon killed three people and wounded 264, plunging the world-famous sporting event into mourning and reviving domestic fears of terrorism.

His trial is due to begin on Jan 5 with jury selection, and Thursday's hearing will be the last to wrap up the final details.

Tsarnaev, a Muslim of half Chechen descent, emigrated with his family to the United States in 2002 and became a naturalised American in 2012.

He and his older brother Tamerlan alone are accused of planting the bombs in back packs near the finish line of the marathon.

Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with the police as the pair tried to escape the Boston area several days later. An injured Dzhokhar was captured while hiding in a boat parked in a suburban backyard.

Three months later in July 2013, Tsarnaev, appeared in a federal court in Boston with a cast on his left arm down to his fingers and his left eye swollen.

He wore an orange prison jumpsuit as the 30 charges were read out against him, which include conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and bombing a public place resulting in death.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

His lawyers say he is held largely in isolation at the federal medical centre, home to 1,095 prisoners, and subject to tight restrictions imposed by Attorney-General Eric Holder in August 2013.

The special administrative measures confine him to his cell, and restrict visitors to his lawyers and immediate family, his legal team says.

They also limit his phone calls, mail and ban any contact with the media.

Thursday's hearing is the last before jury selection begins on Jan 5.

He allegedly scrawled a rambling explanation of his motives for the Boston attacks on an interior wall of the boat.

"The US government is killing our innocent civilians," Tsarnaev wrote.

"I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished... we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all.

"Now I don't like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but ... stop killing our innocent people and we will stop."

He arrived in Boston aged eight with his family from Dagestan and is said to be profoundly affected by his background and early childhood in Kyrgyzstan.

The two brothers, who appear to have acted alone, prepared their bombs based on instructions in Al-Qaeda's English-language magazine Inspire, prosecutors say.

The trial is expected to last several months.

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