(MOSCOW) — If burying the dead Boston bombing suspect in the United States is proving to be difficult, his family is finding it may be impossible in their native Russia.
That’s because, according to legal experts there, Russia has a policy of not giving the bodies of terrorists, or even suspected terrorists, back to their families for burial for fear the grave would become a shrine. Instead, they are usually buried anonymously by the government in an undisclosed location.
Faced with that possibility, the family is now considering cremating the body and trying to transport the ashes back to Russia, then burying them there. Although cremation is against Islamic law, the parents see it as the only way of burying their son’s remains, according to Heda Saratova, a local human rights activist and spokeswoman for the family.
Saratova told ABC News, however, that the parents are so concerned about the Russian law that they fear authorities may not even allow them to bring the ashes into the country.
The suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed during a standoff with police on April 19, but his family says they have been unable to find a mosque in the United States willing to perform funeral rites or a cemetery that is willing to bury him. Protestors have lined up outside the funeral home where his body is being stored, warning they are even willing to dig up the body if it is buried on U.S. soil.
The city of Cambridge, Mass., issued a pre-emptive statement saying they would not allow Tsarnaev to be buried there.
The suspect’s mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, reportedly told the director of the funeral home that she would now prefer to bring the body back to Russia for burial, even though doing so would cost thousands of dollars.
But there is no guarantee she would even get a chance to see her son.
According to Russian legal experts, including one that is advising the family, Russian authorities could declare Tsarnaev a terrorist and deny his family their right to claim the body. The family would be presented only with a certificate stating that he had been buried by the government.
The policy, originally outlined in a 1996 law, is a product of Russia’s long and violent struggle against terrorism. The law states that if an individual dies while committing a terrorist incident, or if a suspect is killed during an operation that prevents one, “their bodies are not given, and the place of their burial is not disclosed.”
President Vladimir Putin was asked about and defended the controversial policy last summer during an appearance at a camp for young Kremlin supporters.
“I agree that it is cruel,” he said. “But the actions of the terrorists themselves are not very kind or tolerant either.”
What complicates Tsarnaev’s case even more, the experts say, is the fact that he was killed overseas and not in Russia by Russian security forces. That difference could make the case a matter of international law that leaves even the most seasoned Russian lawyers in the field scratching their heads.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Arthur Brice, CNN
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Dave Gilbert, CNN