(Reuters) - A Muslim U.S. lawyer, jailed for two weeks for questioning over the deadly Madrid train bombings, was freed on Thursday after a fingerprint said to link him to the attacks was found to belong to another man.
The US government insisted to the end that it was Mayfield's fingerprints. The Spanish government knew that that the fingerprints weren't his.
Brandon Mayfield, a former Army officer who converted to Islam, was detained in Portland, Oregon, based on a single fingerprint of poor quality.
The print was found on a plastic bag containing detonators that was recovered near the station where the bombers boarded the trains on the morning of March 11. Ten bombs exploded on four commuter trains, killing 191 people and wounding 1,900.
Spanish officials blame Muslim extremists operating in the name of al Qaeda. A judge has accused 19 people, including 15 Moroccans, of involvement.
"I just want to say, thank God, everyone who was praying for me when I was in the Multnomah County Detention Center ... through what I'll call a harrowing ordeal," Mayfield told an impromptu news conference.
Flanked by his Egyptian wife, Mona, and holding the Koran and prayer mat provided to him by authorities, Mayfield spoke several phrases in Arabic and English offering praise to God.
Earlier, Spanish police said fingerprints found on the bag of detonators were those of Ouhnane Daoud, an Algerian man, whom they said took part in the attacks.
A Spanish police statement did not make a link with the Mayfield case, but sources close to the investigation said U.S. investigators mistakenly interpreted one Daoud fingerprint as belonging to Mayfield.
"Scientific police have identified the prints 100 percent" as belonging to Daoud, one source said.
Spanish investigators cast doubt on the link to Mayfield from the start. While the Americans found 15 points of coincidence between the print on the bag and Mayfield's fingerprint, Spanish police found only eight, sources close to the probe said.
Calls to the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Portland were not immediately returned.
PORTLAND, Ore. May 20, 2004 — A lawyer who had been arrested two weeks ago in connection with the terror attacks in Spain was set free Thursday after evidence pointed to another suspect in the deadly 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 previously said the prints were Mayfield's. The bag contained detonators similar to those used in the March 11 bombings.
"I want to thank my friends and family for what I'll call a harrowing ordeal," Mayfield said as he walked out the federal courthouse in downtown Portland holding a Koran and grasping his wife's hand.
"It proves it was a total witchhunt," said his brother, Kent Mayfield.
Mayfield had been arrested as a material witness and has not been charged. It is not clear whether the investigation against him has been dropped.
Beth Anne Steele, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Portland, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Steve Wax, Mayfield's attorney, said a gag order issued by a federal judge remained in place, and he could not discuss details.