The parents of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev still say their sons are innocent of any involvement in the April 15 bombings of the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170.
NBC News correspondent Adrienne Mong interviewed Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev in Makhachkala, the remote city in southern Russia that serves as capital of the semi-autonomous region of Dagestan. In a live report today to Martin Bashir, she said of the Tsarnaevs:
They believe absolutely that their sons are innocent. They took a lot of time to describe what kind of men they believe their sons to be. They said that they were gentle, almost like women... the picture that we're seeing on television and in newspapers, the parents say, is not what they know of their sons.
Zubeidat Tsarnaev, the mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, also claims that Russian intelligence officers informed her that the charges against her sons were a "set up." (This is not the first time she has described the case against her sons this way.) Zubeidat Tsarnaev told NBC News that plans by the father to fly to the United States on Wednesday have been postponed because representatives of Russia's state security service--the successor agency to the Soviet Union's K.G.B.--are going to meet with the Tsarnaevs on Tuesday.
According to a Russian news media report, Anzor Tsarnaev wanted to go to the United States to question authorities about their case against his 19-year-old son Dzhokhar, who was charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction in his hospital room at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. The same report also mentioned the father's desire to bring the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev back to Russia.
Although the Tsarnaevs are speaking with one voice in support of their sons, Massachusetts court records show that the couple received a divorce on grounds of "irretrievable breakdown" in 2011. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a rift in the Tsarnaev household opened up when Tamerlan and Zubeidat adopted a more austere version of the Islamic faith; Mrs. Tsarnaeva said she "started reading with my Tamerlan."
Tamerlan's spiritual turn seems to have had the opposite effect on his father. Aznor Tsarnaev says that he became "very depressed" over his elder son's new-found religiosity and eventually left both his wife and his home in the U.S. According to Aznor's sister, it was a difficult adjustment to see Zubeidat dressed in a veil because she "used to wear high heels and a low dress."
You can listen to more of Adrienne Mong's discussion with Martin Bashir here: