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FBI e-mail proves wrongful arrest in Madrid bombings

Posted in the database on Saturday, July 16th, 2005 @ 20:07:36 MST (1744 views)
from Al Jazeera  

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The e-mail sheds new light on the events leading to the wrong arrests following Madrid bombings

An FBI official stated in an e-mail, a day before Brandon Mayfield was wrongly arrested for allegedly having links to March 2004 train bombings in Madrid, that the agency did not have enough evidence to arrest the Portland attorney.

In a recently declassified e-mail, Beth Anne Steele, a Portland FBI spokeswoman, said that Mayfield was a Muslim convert, and that the FBI had a plan to arrest him if and when his alleged link to Spain's attack "gets outed by the media."

An e-mail sent by Steele to a colleague, whose name is blacked out, says that Mayfield, whom she describes as a "Muslim convert and attorney," had been "tied" by a fingerprint to Madrid bombings, which claimed the lives of 191 people and injured over 1,500.

"The problem is there is no enough evidence to arrest him on a criminal charge. There is a plan to arrest him as a material witness if and when he gets outed by the media," Steele wrote.

The FBI in Los Angeles "may receive a call from the (Los Angeles) Times trying to nail this down. If you do receive this call, we would just ask that you confirm nothing and try to get out of them how much they have and whether or not publication is imminent".

"The powers that be are trying to hold off as long as possible on any arrest, but they want to make sure an arrest happens before anything hits the media," Steele added.

On May 6, 2004, Mayfield, 38, was arrested as a material witness.

At that time, the FBI claimed that the fingerprints found on a bag of one of the bombers near the scene had been matched to Mayfield.

Mayfield was mistakenly jailed for two weeks last year.

But two weeks later, the FBI admitted the fingerprints belonged to someone else, and freed Mayfield.

Mayfield filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, saying that he was singled out as a Muslim. He accused the government of violating his constitutional rights by wrongly arresting him, and wiretapping his house prior to his arrest.

In the lawsuit filed yesterday, Mayfield’s attorneys said that the e-mail proves that the U.S. government "recognized it did not have probable cause to arrest Mr. Mayfield."

Thus, the e-mail sheds new light on the events leading to Mayfield's arrest, causing a major embarrassment for the FBI.

In a telephone interview, Gerry Spence, a lawyer representing Mayfield in his lawsuit against the government, said that the more troubling issue is the admission that there was no enough evidence to arrest Mayfield in the first place.

"The e-mail says that there wasn't enough evidence to arrest him on a criminal charge. I don't know if that makes your hair stand on end or what," he said.

"Here the government is saying we don't have any grounds to hold him criminally, but if the media outs him then we are going to hold him as a material witness," Spence said.

Mayfield is to appear in federal court in Portland tomorrow in his civil case against the government.

According to Michael Greenberger, the former Justice Department official, and now the head of the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security, a serious question the e-mail raises is why the FBI would alter its course of action based on what the media would report?!

"What's astonishing to me is the idea of waiting until he's outed by the media to then arrest him as a material witness — they either have the appropriate evidence to arrest him or they don't," he said.

"They seem to have felt that without the support of press attention they didn't really have a case. Relying on media attention to buttress a case is a highly dubious prosecutorial practice," he added.



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