A story in May 22 editions incorrectly reported that authorities took Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield into custody when Newsweek magazine revealed his possible involvement in the Madrid terrorist bombings. In fact, the May 6 story on Newsweek's Web site reported that Mayfield had been arrested as a material witness after an apparent fingerprint match linked him to the bombing. A law enforcement agent has said that authorities ended their investigation prematurely after they began to receive inquiries about Mayfield from the media. Mayfield was released from custody Thursday when Spanish police determined that the fingerprint belonged to another man. (Published 5/23/04)
Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon lawyer arrested as a material witness after fingerprint evidence appeared to link him to the deadly terrorist bombings in Spain, yesterday enjoyed his first full day of freedom in two weeks, even as his legal status remained unclear.
Mayfield was released Thursday after a detention hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones in Portland. It was held just hours after Spanish police concluded that the fingerprint they had found on a bag of bomb detonators belonged to an Algerian man.
But Mayfield remains under the supervision of the court's pretrial services division, according to information posted on the court's Web site.
"The court ordered Mayfield released pending further grand jury proceedings wherein he remains a material witness," according to a statement on the federal court Web site.
Whether Mayfield is still suspected of links to the attack in Spain is unclear, because a gag order issued two weeks ago on all parties in the case remains in effect. The only clue from the court was a notation that suggested Mayfield's release was not tied to news from Spain Thursday that the fingerprint belonged to Algerian Ouhnane Daoud. Spanish authorities now say Daoud participated in the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people on March 11.
"The court notes that this hearing was scheduled prior to and independent of news media reports," the statement on the court Web site says.
The FBI had matched the print to Mayfield, but Spanish police were more doubtful. U.S. law enforcement officials said they were unable to comment on the evidence yesterday.
Tom Nelson, a lawyer and friend of Mayfield's, said that Mayfield is constrained about what he can say about the investigation but is considering a civil lawsuit against the government. Mayfield and his family maintained throughout the past two weeks that he had nothing to do with the train bombings, which injured more than 2,000 people.
"It's too early to declare victory, I'll tell you that," Nelson said.
Shahriar Ahmed, president of Bilal Mosque in Beaverton, Ore., which Mayfield attended regularly, and a friend of Mayfield's, said the "reaction to [Mayfield's] release is a tremendous sense of relief that the family is together again. . . . They were really hurting. None of us could give them support, primarily because we are all scared."
"In the Muslim community," he added, "there is tremendous relief, but at the same time, the fear is still there. What is going on? Why hasn't the gag order been lifted?"
The fingerprint that linked Mayfield to the bombings was found hours after the morning rush-hour blasts on a bag containing seven bomb detonators that was left in a stolen van. The van had been left near the train station from which three of the four bombed trains had departed. The bombings were blamed on Islamic militants with possible links to al Qaeda.
When Newsweek magazine first revealed Mayfield's possible involvement, authorities quickly took him into custody as a material witness under a statute that allows them to hold him without charges if they believe he has information crucial to a criminal case and might be a flight risk. The tactic has been used more frequently in the war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
But on Thursday the Spanish interior minister issued a news release saying Spanish forensic specialists had determined that the fingerprints "correspond to the third finger and thumb" of Daoud's right hand.
Staff writer Blaine Harden in Seattle contributed to this report.