Madrid suspect 'never went to Spain'

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The Independent US

The wife of a US lawyer detained last week as a material witness to the Madrid train bombings said yesterday that her husband had never been to Spain and that a fingerprint found on a bag of detonators at a railway station therefore could not be his.

The wife of a US lawyer detained last week as a material witness to the Madrid train bombings said yesterday that her husband had never been to Spain and that a fingerprint found on a bag of detonators at a railway station therefore could not be his.

Mona Mayfield, the Egyptian-born mother of Brandon Mayfield's three children, spoke for the first time since he was picked up at their suburban home outside Portland, Oregon, and removed to a secret location last Thursday.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she said it was a case of mistaken identity. He was a peaceful man and, despite his conversion to Islam at the time of their courtship and marriage in the late 1980s, not particularly religious, much less a fundamentalist.

"If it is his fingerprint, then there's a story there," she said. But, she added: "It's not his fingerprint." She and other family members insisted he had never been to Spain, had not left Oregon in two years, and had not been abroad since a family trip to Egypt in 1993.

The Mayfields have garnered considerable sympathy in Portland, with the local newspapers noting a reported lack of certainty about the fingerprint match and urging everyone - government and ordinary citizens - to respect Mr Mayfield's rights until the truth becomes clearer. US officials appear willing to concede that Mr Mayfield has no record of travelling to Spain, but suggest he might have done so in secret using false documents. He has not been formally arrested or charged with any crime, and the LA Times reported disagreement in law enforcement ranks about the wisdom of taking him into custody before they had more of a case against him.

The working theory behind his detention is that he gave the Madrid bombers explosives training. Mr Mayfield is an army veteran but no evidence has emerged of any training or expertise in handling explosives.

Mr Mayfield is tangentially linked to a group of Islamic fundamentalists known as the "Portland Seven" who were sentenced to prison last year for conspiring to wage a holy war on behalf of al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. He acted as a lawyer for one of the seven in a child custody dispute. He had nothing to do with their criminal case.

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