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Man wrongly linked to Madrid bombings sues

Names Ashcroft, Justice Department, FBI; challenges Patriot Act

From Justine Redman

Attorney Brandon Mayfield
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Justice Department
Madrid (Spain)

(CNN) -- A lawyer in Portland, Oregon, wrongly detained in connection with the investigation of March's deadly train bombings in Madrid, Spain, filed suit Monday against the Justice Department and FBI.

In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon, Brandon Mayfield and his family charge that the government violated their civil rights.

During an FBI terrorism investigation, Mayfield's fingerprints were mistakenly matched to a fingerprint on a bag containing detonators found in Madrid, leading to his detention by the FBI on a material witness warrant in May.

Mayfield, a convert to Islam, alleges his faith caused him to be "singled out by by the U.S. government to be accused of terrorism."

The lawsuit, which names the Department of Justice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, the FBI and four FBI employees as defendants, also challenges the constitutionality of portions of the Patriot Act.

The suit alleges that in order to justify the arrest of Mayfield as a material witness, his constitutional rights were violated when FBI and Justice Department staff "concocted false and misleading affidavits."

An expert hired by the court and approved by Mayfield's attorney agreed with the FBI's initial analysis of the fingerprint match.

After Spanish authorities insisted there was no match, another check was done, and Mayfield was released after two weeks.

The FBI issued a rare apology, acknowledging that a substandard image was the basis of the fingerprint analysis.

The Justice Department's inspector general announced in September it was launching its own investigation into how faulty analysis led to Mayfield's arrest. (Full story)

Mayfield's lawsuit also describes trauma, terror and humiliation experienced by his wife and children following his arrest and the search and seizure of items from their family home, including the children's Spanish language homework.

Mayfield alleges his right to privacy was violated by the government when news of his arrest and his identity were leaked to the news media.

The suit also demands the return of items and information seized during searches and surveillance of the family's property and Mayfield's office and the destruction of any copies that were made.

Justice Department officials have previously told the court that all originals of seized material have been returned.

They also say they need to keep copies to help answer questions about the case because of the numerous internal government investigations, as well as to help the Justice Department mount a defense against Mayfield's lawsuit.

The U.S. attorney's office in Portland had no comment.

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