Thursday, May 20, 2004

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A lawyer who was arrested two weeks ago in connection with the terror attacks in Spain was set free yesterday after evidence pointed to another suspect in the deadly train bombings.

Brandon Mayfield’s release came soon after Spanish officials said fingerprints found on a bag near the bombing site were that of an Algerian. U.S. authorities had said that the prints were Mr. Mayfield’s.

The bag contained detonators similar to those used in the March 11 bombings, which killed 191 persons and injured 2,000.

“I want to thank my family and friends who were supporting me through what I will call a harrowing ordeal,” Mr. Mayfield, a Muslim convert, said as he walked out the federal courthouse in Portland, grasping his wife’s hand and holding a Koran and a Muslim prayer rug.

In Arabic and then in English, Mr. Mayfield, 37, recited a Muslim prayer: “God is great. There is no god but God.”

His three children, ages 10, 12 and 15, rushed up behind him, and his wife’s eyes filled up with tears. The family has insisted from the start that Mr. Mayfield is innocent, saying he has not been out of the country for at least a decade.

His mother, Avnell Mayfield, said she hugged him when he arrived at his suburban Portland home.

“I’m just elated,” she said in a telephone interview. “He’s much taller than I remember him being.”

Mr. Mayfield said through relatives that he could not comment because of a gag order. His attorney, Steve Wax, also declined to discuss details.

Mr. Mayfield, a former Army lieutenant who ran a small law firm in Portland, was arrested May 6 as a material witness and has not been charged. It is not clear whether the investigation against him has been dropped.

FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said she could not comment because “it is a pending grand jury matter.” But she would not say whether the grand jury was weighing an indictment against Mr. Mayfield. Justice Department officials in Washington declined to comment on the case.

Senior law-enforcement officials in Washington speaking on the condition of anonymity had said that the FBI had Mr. Mayfield’s home under surveillance for weeks — but had rushed to arrest him because they feared news of their investigation would be leaked.

“The reality of this case is that some breaks in that secrecy — some leaks — have been quite harmful to Mr. Mayfield,” Mr. Wax said.

Mr. Mayfield’s brother, Kent, had to be pulled away from the TV cameras by Mr. Wax when he shouted, “This proves it was a total witch hunt.”

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