Saturday, September 09, 2006
Tribune newspaper: Sudan frees ace reporterKHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- American journalist Paul Salopek was released Saturday from a prison in the war-torn Darfur region where he was held for more than a month on espionage charges, the Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site.
A judge in the North Darfur capital of el-Fasher released the Chicago Tribune journalist and his Chadian driver and interpreter after a 13-minute hearing.
"We are stopping the case and we are releasing you right now. And that is all," the judge said in English, the Tribune reported.
Bill Richardson, the governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico, had traveled to Sudan on Friday to meet with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and secure their release on humanitarian grounds.
Richardson was in el-Fasher on Saturday to pick up Salopek and his colleagues. Katharine Moseley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, told The Associated Press that the party left el-Fasher around 6 p.m. and were expected in the Sudanese capital Saturday night.
Salopek: 'I'm doing great'
"I'm doing great," Salopek told the Tribune after his release. "It's an interesting feeling being mobile again, in a mechanized vehicle."
Salopek's wife, Linda Lynch, and Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski traveled with Richardson to Sudan. A message left with Richardson's office in New Mexico was not immediately returned.
Salopek was on assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was arrested last month and accused of passing information illegally, writing "false news" and entering the African country without a visa. His trial was set to begin Sunday.
The journalist, who won Pulitzer Prizes in 2001 and in 1998, was scheduled to return to New Mexico, where he has a home, as early as Sunday, and his two assistants were to go to Chad, according to the Tribune.
"I think this is a triumph of diplomacy. It shows we can make a difference even if we have wide differences, which (the United States and Sudan) do," said Richardson, the Tribune reported.
Richardson, a former congressman, U.N. ambassador and energy secretary during the Clinton administration, said his previous success helping to get prisoners released in Sudan helped him secure Salopek's freedom. In 1996, Richardson helped get three Red Cross workers, including an Albuquerque pilot, released from Marxist rebels in Sudan.
Category: Darfur, Sudan.