BOSTON (AP) — The director of the Massachusetts funeral home where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body was held for days said Monday that his family had the right to bury the body as they did, even if he didn't agree with their methods.
Peter Stefan, of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, said he had received about 20 calls from Virginia residents complaining about Tsarnaev's secret burial there last week.
But Stefan said Massachusetts law gives families the right to bury their own relatives, and Tsarnaev's family had a permit to take the body to Doswell, Va.
Stefan said he didn't agree with the solution for moving the body: taking it from his funeral home in a nondescript van for the first leg of an overnight trip to Virginia in a truck rented by Tsarnaev's uncle. Stefan said he had been hoping Russia would eventually accept Tsarnaev's body and his remains could go back to his parents.
"It looked like we sneaked down there and did it," Stefan said. "We didn't do anything illegal. ... I have to prove to the people watching in Virginia that it was legal."
Stefan's comments came as a group critical of the burial said Monday that it wants the body disinterred and sent elsewhere.
James Lafferty, chairman of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, called the burial "an awful sneak attack on the people of Virginia." Lafferty said he's worried that Muslim radicals will turn the gravesite into a shrine.
"I think it's the first step in establishing a monument to a jihadist," he said. "We can't allow that."
Bukhari Abdel-Alim, vice president of the Virginia Islamic Funeral Services Inc., which helped arrange the burial, said if someone tried to create shrine to Tsarnaev, "We would stop it."
He also defended the secrecy of the burial. "The deceased have rights, and one of those rights is to be buried properly," he said.
Abdel-Alim said Islam does not support disinterment, but he added the organization and the owners of the private cemetery would comply with any court order.