US lawyer linked to Madrid train bombings is cleared

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The Independent US

An American lawyer arrested in the US in connection with the Madrid train bombings was freed early yesterday after fingerprints thought to be his were identified as belonging to someone else.

An American lawyer arrested in the US in connection with the Madrid train bombings was freed early yesterday after fingerprints thought to be his were identified as belonging to someone else.

Spanish authorities said prints on a plastic bag near the scene of the tragedy were not those of Brandon Mayfield, 37, but of an Algerian who lived in Madrid and had a police record.

Mr Mayfield, a former US army officer who converted to Islam in the 1980s, was detained two weeks ago in Portland, Oregon, as a "material witness" in the attack that killed 192 people on 11 March.

"I want to thank my family and friends who were supporting me through a harrowing ordeal," Mr Mayfield said as he walked from custody yesterday, holding hands with his wife, and carrying a Koran.

The fingerprinted bag, found in a van in Alcala de Henares near Madrid hours after the bombings, contained detonators similar to those used in the attack. The van was near the railway station where three of the four bombed trains had started their journey. Spanish police said the prints were those of an Algerian, Ouhane Daoud, and that Mr Mayfield was no longer implicated.

Mr Mayfield had declared his innocence, saying he had not left the US since 1993. He insisted the prints were not his, and those close to the family said he was targeted for being a Muslim. Spanish police had sent the prints to the FBI after they failed to match them, and US security services named Mr Mayfield.

Spanish police issued a photograph of Mr Daoud, who had been living illegally in Spain. Police said his fingerprints indicated he had "participated" in the bombing, but they did not say whether they were seeking him.

Mr Mayfield's brother, Kent, called the case a "witch hunt" and said US agents had not produced any additional evidence linking Mr Mayfield to the bombings.

His mother, Avnell Mayfield, said she hugged her son when he arrived at his suburban Portland home. "I'm just elated," she said in a telephone interview.

Samer Horani, a board member of the Islamic Center of Portland, called Mayfield's arrest a stark example of the FBI's profiling of Muslims. "Ethnicity doesn't matter. If you are Muslim you are suspect," he said.

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