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Archive for Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Terror case dismissed against Kansas native

FBI bungles evidence in Madrid bombing probe

May 25, 2004

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— A federal court Monday threw out the case against an American lawyer once linked to the Madrid train bombings, and the FBI apologized for a fingerprint-identification error that led to his arrest.

The court's action lifts a cloud of suspicion that has surrounded attorney Brandon Mayfield since his arrest May 6. The 37-year-old convert to Islam sharply criticized the government after the announcement, calling his time behind bars "humiliating" and "embarrassing" and saying he was targeted because of his faith.

"I am a Muslim, an American and an ex-officer of the U.S. military," he said at a news conference. "I believe I was singled out and discriminated against, I feel, as a Muslim."

The court cited a fingerprint-identification error by the FBI in dismissing the case.

FBI officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said that Mayfield's fingerprint matched one found on a bag of detonators near the train station in Madrid in the March 11 bombing, which killed 191 people and injured 2,000 others. But last week, Spanish authorities said the fingerprints of an Algerian man were on the bag.

"The FBI apologizes to Mr. Mayfield and his family for the hardships that this matter has caused," the bureau said in a statement issued from Washington.

Robert Jordan, the FBI agent in charge of Oregon, said the agency "regretted" any hardship caused by the arrest and said the bureau would review its practices on fingerprint analyses.

Jordan said the FBI's initial determination about Mayfield's fingerprint was "based on an image of substandard quality."

Mayfield, a Kansas native, was arrested May 6, after FBI agents raided his suburban home in Aloha, Ore.

He was released from custody last week after the announcement by Spanish authorities. But he was not altogether cleared of suspicion at the time; the government said he remained a "material witness" and put restrictions on his movements.

Restrictions were lifted Monday.

A statement posted on the U.S. District Court's Web site said: "Due to the misidentification by the FBI of a fingerprint, the court orders the material witness proceeding dismissed. The court orders all property seized to be returned to the material witness."

Furthermore, the court said that all documents in the case would be unsealed.

Mayfield's mother said the family wants an apology from the U.S. government.

"That's what we've been saying all along. It's not his fingerprint," said AvNell Mayfield of Hutchinson, Kan. "He was falsely accused, and they still weren't letting him go."

The family erupted in joy after the announcement, with Mayfield's son and brother giving each other high-fives in the living room of his home.

"They're dancing and clicking their heels," Avnell Mayfield said.

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