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Dhaka Tribune

Man who set himself alight outside Trump trial dies

  • Shared leaflets before dousing himself in liquid and setting himself on fire
  • Gruesome scene caught by TV cameras outside New York court
Update : 20 Apr 2024, 05:09 PM

A man has died after setting himself on fire near the New York courthouse where former US President Donald Trump’s hush money trial is taking place, US media reported on Saturday, citing the police.

The New York police department said the man, who burned for several minutes in full view of television cameras, did not appear to have been targeting Trump.

What happened outside the courthouse?

On Friday, a witness told AFP news agency he saw a man throwing pamphlets in Collect Pond Park, directly opposite the courthouse where the criminal trial of Trump is currently taking place. 

The man, who was in his late 30s, then doused himself with an unspecified liquid and set himself on fire.

Video footage posted on social media showed a person standing engulfed in flames, then falling to the ground as police and plainclothes officers rushed to beat out the blaze. 

The man, later named by police as Max Azzarello of St Augustine, Florida, was initially taken to hospital by ambulance where he was said to be in critical condition.

He was pronounced dead at the hospital, NBC reported, citing the police.

The motives for the self-immolation remain unclear. 

Police said the man did not appear to be targeting Trump or others involved in the trial.

“Right now, we are labeling him as sort of a conspiracy theorist, and we are going from there,” Tarik Sheppard, a deputy commissioner with the Police Department, said at a news conference.

The courthouse was cordoned off and numerous police officers were stationed outside.

What is Trump’s hush-money trial about?

Trump is accused of covering up a $130,000 payment his then-lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn actor Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

The money was allegedly paid to hush up a sexual encounter Daniels says she and Trump had a decade earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records and denies any such encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

The trial is the only one certain to go ahead before the November 5 US presidential election, when the Republican politician seeks a repeat duel with Democratic President Joe Biden.

The self-immolation took place shortly after jury selection for the trial was completed, clearing the way for opening statements next week.

The 12 jurors, along with six alternates, will consider evidence in a first-ever trial to determine whether a former US president is guilty of breaking the law.

Prosecutors intend to call at least 20 witnesses, according to Trump’s defense lawyer Susan Necheles.

Trump may testify on his own behalf, in a risky move that would open him up to cross-examination.

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