Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has made his first public appearance in 17 months, attending a brief court hearing before his trial begins on January 5.

Tsarnaev, 21, sat between two female lawyers in a full to bursting US federal court room in the northeastern city of Boston.

He answered questions from Judge George O'Toole calmly and quietly in the brief session that lasted less than half an hour.

Tsarnaev, who faces the death penalty, is accused of carrying out the April 15, 2013 attacks that killed three people and wounded 264.

The attack was the worst in the United States since the 9/11 al-Qaeda hijackings that killed nearly 3,000.

The judge discussed leaks to the press and announced that discussions on jury selection would continue in private.

At the end, a woman started yelling out in Russian and English. "Stop killing innocent people!" she shouted.

Multiple charges

Families of the victims, with drawn faces, were separated from the rest of the public in the gallery.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 charges in connection with the attacks, which plunged Boston and its world-famous sporting event into mourning, and revived domestic fears of terrorism.

Before Thursday he had not been seen in public since entering his not-guilty plea in July 2013.

At the time he was suffering from injuries from his time on the run and arrest in the days after the attack. On Thursday, he seemed in good health.

The charges against him include conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and bombing a public place resulting in death.

He and his older brother Tamerlan alone are accused of planting two pressure cooker bombs hidden in back packs near the finish line of the marathon.

Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police as the pair tried to escape the Boston area several days later. An injured Dzhokhar was captured while hiding in a boat parked in a suburban backyard.

Initially scheduled for November 3, his trial is now due to begin on January 5 with jury selection, which could take several weeks.

The trial itself could take two to three months.

Source: AFP