A Facebook page claiming the man charged with the Boston Marathon bombings is innocent has attracted over 12,000 "fans", as the Twitter and Instagram hashtag “#FreeJahar” goes viral, driven by a mix of conspiracy theorists and teenage girls.
Despite the fact Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has seemingly admitted his involvement in the blasts by reportedly naming his brother as the “driving force” behind the attacks and claiming the pair worked independently of any terrorist network, a large group of people are claiming the 19-year-old was set up.
Although the "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is innocent" Facebook page is invitation-only and claims to “screen” all members before they are allowed to join, it has already attracted well over 12,000 "fans".
The page has also claimed to be behind an alleged habeas corpus action it says it has presented to a Boston court. The writ apparently centres on a number of conspiracy theories surrounding the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the fact the Facebook users consider him to be in a “serious medical condition and in no way mentally capable of waiving any Constitutional rights including his right to a fair hearing”.
Tsarnaev is said to be heavily sedated and breathing through a ventilator, although US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler found him to be “alert, mentally competent and lucid” enough to answer preliminary questions on the Boston bombings.
The social media support for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has spread on to Twitter and Instagram, with the hashtag “#FreeJahar” going viral.
Mirroring the "crowdsourcing" activity that saw Reddit users set up the "Find Boston Bombers" sub-forum in the wake of the attacks, a large number of conspiracy theorists are using the hashtag to share photographs and unsubstantiated hypotheses on last week’s events. Authorities expressed great concern at the time that social media was being used to conduct a witch-hunt.
Twitter user @Camila_Jimenez shared photographs claiming the bag Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was shown carrying in CCTV footage taken before the bombings did not match that which was found on the ground in the aftermath of the blasts, while @J_Tsarsupport posted a graphic photograph showing the extreme injuries suffered by one living blast victim and claiming it would have been almost impossible for somebody to survive with these wounds, let alone remain conscious.
Twitter users are currently posting #FreeJahar messages at a rate of around two per minute, many of them dealing with what they claim are “inconsistencies” surrounding Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s arrest, although the hashtag is increasingly being used to berate users for perceived insensitivity surrounding the theories and by internet "trolls" posting mocking or deliberately off-topic messages.
As well as the conspiracy theorists, a number of teenage girls have used Twitter and Instagram to share images of themselves wearing bracelets bearing Tsarnaev’s reported nickname "Jahar" and writing messages proclaiming his innocence on their bodies.
On Twitter, user @sputnik51210 posted a message: "Prayers and love to @j_tsar @xxjungaxx @TroyCrossley #FreeJahar im telling everyone. Y'all are some badass friends" along with a photograph of a homemade 'Free Jahar' bracelet.
Meanwhile on Instagram, user 'freejaharxo' posted "Pray for his freedom! #FreeJahar #Jahar #Dzokhar #Freedom" along with a photograph, seemingly of a young girl's arm with smiley face and love heart symbols and the words 'Free Jahar' scrawled in ink marker pen.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill three people and injured more than 200 – a crime that potentially carries the death penalty.
He has also been charged with one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death, according to US Attorney General, Eric Holder.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is said to be unable to speak after suffering a throat wound, reportedly the result of a failed suicide attempt at the climax of his dramatic arrest on Friday night, when he was found hiding under a tarpaulin covering a blood-stained boat parked on a trailer in a residential garden.
He was said to be so weak from blood loss at the time that officers were able to demand he pull up his top to show he wasn’t wearing an explosive vest and to open his hands to prove he wasn’t concealing a weapon or a detonator.
Tsarnaev was subsequently rushed to hospital where he was said to be in a serious condition after suffering severe injuries and major blood loss.
Unconfirmed reports suggested Tsarnaev may have been hit once or twice by police bullets the previous evening during the fire-fight in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed.
On Sunday police confirmed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev is likely to have died after his younger brother drove a stolen SUV at police officers who were in the process of arresting the 26-year-old.
Over the weekend, Anzor Tsarnaev, the father of the two suspects, said he would fly from Dagestan to the US this week to seek “justice and truth.” Anzor Tsarnaev has publically stated that he believes his sons were set up.
His wife reportedly told the Associated Press news agency that Anzor would fly to Boston some time today and that the family wished to take the elder Tsarnaev’s body home to be buried.
Tamerlan visited Dagestan early last year, reportedly evading the attention of the FBI, which had previously questioned him but failed to spot his trip due to a spelling mistake in his name, according to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.
The US authorities are now said to be waiting to speak to Tamerlan’s US-born wife, Katherine Russell.