WASHINGTON: A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted suspected white supremacist Dylann Roof on hate crime and other charges over the June 17 massacre of nine black parishioners in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The 33-count indictment is in addition to South Carolina state murder and attempted murder charges against the 21-year-old suspect, who could face the death penalty if convicted.
"Racially-motivated violence such as this is the original domestic terrorism," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in announcing the indictments at a Washington press conference.
"For these crimes, Roof faces federal penalties of up to life imprisonment or the death penalty," Lynch said.
Roof was arrested in North Carolina a day after he alleged joined an evening bible study class at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and then shot nine participants with a .45-caliber Glock handgun.
The victims included Emanuel's chief pastor Clementa Pinckney, who was also a South Carolina state senator. Three people survived the shooting.
A website attributed to him was later found to contain racist views towards African Americans, as well as photographs of Roof brandishing guns and the Confederate battle flag.
Lynch said the US government was charging Roof with nine murders and three attempted murders under a hate crime law that prohibits the use of force to harm an individual on the basis of race or color.
He is also charged under a second hate crime law that bans the use of force to prohibit the free exercise of religious belief, the attorney general said.
"Finally, Roof has been charged with the act of using a firearm in these racially motivated murders and attempted murders," she said.
No decision has been taken on whether to seek the death penalty, Lynch said, adding that consultation with the victims' families would be "an important part of this decision-making process."
South Carolina has no hate crime laws on its books, but the murder charges it is pressing against Roof carry the possibility of the death penalty.
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