U.S. Releases Man Questioned for Madrid Bombings
Fri May 21, 5:14 AM ET By Chris Stetkiewicz
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Muslim U.S. lawyer, jailed for two weeks for questioning over the deadly Madrid train bombings, was freed on Thursday after a fingerprint said to link him to the attacks was found to belong to another man.
Brandon Mayfield, a former Army officer who converted to Islam, was detained in Portland, Oregon, based on a single fingerprint of poor quality.
The print was found on a plastic bag containing detonators that was recovered near the station where the bombers boarded the trains on the morning of March 11. Ten bombs exploded on four commuter trains, killing 191 people and wounding 1,900.
Spanish officials blame Muslim extremists operating in the name of al Qaeda. A judge has accused 19 people, including 15 Moroccans, of involvement.
"I just want to say, thank God, everyone who was praying for me when I was in the Multnomah County Detention Center ... through what I'll call a harrowing ordeal," Mayfield told an impromptu news conference.
Flanked by his Egyptian wife, Mona, and holding the Koran and prayer mat provided to him by authorities, Mayfield spoke several phrases in Arabic and English offering praise to God.
Earlier, Spanish police said fingerprints found on the bag of detonators were those of Ouhnane Daoud, an Algerian man, whom they said took part in the attacks.
A Spanish police statement did not make a link with the Mayfield case, but sources close to the investigation said U.S. investigators mistakenly interpreted one Daoud fingerprint as belonging to Mayfield.
"Scientific police have identified the prints 100 percent" as belonging to Daoud, one source said.
Spanish investigators cast doubt on the link to Mayfield from the start. While the Americans found 15 points of coincidence between the print on the bag and Mayfield's fingerprint, Spanish police found only eight, sources close to the probe said.
Calls to the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Portland were not immediately returned.
Mayfield's attorney, public defender Steven Wax, said he could not discuss details of the case, but he stressed Mayfield has maintained that he was innocent since his arrest on May 6.
His brother Kent Mayfield called the case a "witch hunt" and said U.S. agents never produced any additional evidence linking Brandon Mayfield to the bombings.
"For someone who was incarcerated for never committing a crime, I guess he was treated all right. He was treated just like any other criminal," Kent Mayfield told Reuters by telephone, noting his brother had been kept in a jail cell since his arrest.
Mayfield once did child custody work for a man who was convicted of plotting to travel from Oregon to Afghanistan (news - web sites) with a group of Muslims aiming to help al Qaeda and the Taliban fight U.S. forces. He was held as a material witness in the Madrid case, which allowed authorities to hold him without charges and severely limit his access to attorneys, family and friends.
(Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon in Madrid)