[Ppnews] U.S. Will Pay $2 Million to Lawyer Wrongly Jailed
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 30 13:52:57 EST 2006
November 30, 2006
U.S. Will Pay $2 Million to Lawyer Wrongly Jailed
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 The federal government
agreed to pay $2 million Wednesday to an Oregon
lawyer wrongly jailed in connection with the 2004
terrorist bombings in Madrid, and it issued a
formal apology to him and his family.
The unusual settlement caps a two-and-a-half-year
ordeal that saw the lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, go
from being a suspected terrorist operative to a
symbol, in the eyes of his supporters, of
government overzealousness in the war on terrorism.
The United States of America apologizes to Mr.
Brandon Mayfield and his family for the suffering
caused by his mistaken arrest, the governments
apology began. It added that the
Bureau of Investigation, which erroneously linked
him to the Madrid bombs through a fingerprinting
mistake, had taken steps to ensure that what
happened to Mr. Mayfield and the Mayfield family does not happen again.
At an emotional news conference in Portland
announcing the settlement, Mr. Mayfield said he
and his wife, an Egyptian immigrant, and their
three children still suffered from the scars left
by the governments surveillance of him and his
jailing for two weeks in May 2004.
The horrific pain, torture and humiliation that
this has caused myself and my family is hard to
put into words, said Mr. Mayfield, an
American-born convert to Islam and a former lieutenant in the Army.
The days, weeks and months following my arrest,
he said, were some of the darkest we have had to
endure. I personally was subject to lockdown,
strip searches, sleep deprivation, unsanitary
living conditions, shackles and chains, threats,
physical pain and humiliation.
Fingerprint examiners at the F.B.I. erroneously
linked Mr. Mayfield to the terrorist bombings in
Madrid through a mistaken identification of a
print taken from a plastic bag containing
detonator caps that was found at the scene of the
bombings. The bombings, on March 11, 2004, killed
191 people and left 2,000 injured in the
deadliest terrorist attack in Europe since World War II.
Despite doubts from Spanish officials about the
validity of the fingerprint match, American
officials began an aggressive high-level
investigation into Mr. Mayfield in the weeks
after the bombings. The fact that he had
represented a terrorism defendant in a
child-custody case in Portland spurred further
interest in him. Using expanded surveillance
powers under the USA Patriot Act, the government
wiretapped his conversations, conducted secret
searches of his home and his law office and
jailed him for two weeks as a material witness in
the case before a judge threw out the case against him.
The settlement includes an unusual condition that
frees the government from future liability except
in one important area: Mr. Mayfield is allowed to
continue a lawsuit seeking to overturn parts of
the Patriot Act as a violation of the Fourth
Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
Several legal experts said they considered the
settlement significant because of the public
apology and the substantial payment.
You almost never see something like this, said
Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence
Project, a legal clinic in New York City. Its
extraordinary, but the harm caused him was
extraordinary. What I really think it speaks to
is just how clearly the U.S. government crossed
the line when it went after Mayfield.
Suzanne Spaulding, a former lawyer with the
Intelligence Agency who specializes in national
security law, said that the terms of the
settlement allowing Mr. Mayfield to continue his
lawsuit over the Patriot Act were also significant.
Youve got to think that the Justice Department
did not want to make that concession, she said.
That and the two million dollars are further
evidence that they were vulnerable and that he
clearly had some significant leverage in these negotiations.
Justice Department officials said they were
confident that the legal foundation of the
Patriot Act, including the surveillance and
search provisions challenged by Mr. Mayfield, would hold up in court.
Although the F.B.I. has acknowledged serious
missteps in the case, an investigation by the
Justice Department inspector general released
this year concluded that the government did not
misuse its expanded counterterrorism powers under
the Patriot Act and that Mr. Mayfields Muslim
faith was not the reason he was initially
investigated. Still, Mr. Mayfield continued to
assert Wednesday that he and his family were a
target because of our Muslim religion.
Our freedom of religion in this country is a
sacred right, he said, and the exercise of
ones beliefs in a lawful manner should never be
a factor in a governments investigation of any citizen.
In Washington, the settlement was applauded by
Representative John Conyers Jr., the Michigan
Democrat who is expected to become the chairman
of the House Judiciary Committee in January.
The Mayfield case cries out for checks and
balances on what has been, at times, an
overzealous pursuit of innocent Americans, Mr.
Conyers said. I am heartened that Mr. Mayfield
has received this small measure of justice.
Brian Libby contributed reporting from Portland, Ore.
The Freedom Archives
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San Francisco, CA 94110
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