Spying Charges: Sudan President to Consider "Geographic" Reporter's Case

Updated September 1, 2006

The President of Sudan and a U.S. State Department official discussed the case of Paul Salopek earlier this week. On Saturday a Sudanese court had charged the U.S. journalist with espionage, reporting official documents, reporting false information, and entering Sudan without a visa.

Salopek, a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, had been on assignment for National Geographic magazine when Sudanese forces arrested him, his driver, and his interpreter in Sudan's Darfur Province on August 6.

Both his driver, Idriss Abdulrahman Anu, and his interpreter, Suleiman Abakar, are from neighboring Chad (map of Africa).

(National Geographic News and National Geographic magazine are parts of the National Geographic Society.)

Humanitarian Standpoint

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer discussed the case on Tuesday during a meeting at al-Bashir's home about the ongoing conflict in Darfur.

Following the meeting, President al-Bashir said he will consider Salopek's case from "a humanitarian standpoint," spokesperson Mahjud Fadul Bedry told the Sudan Times.

National Geographic magazine was "encouraged" by the news, Editor in Chief Chris Johns said Friday in a statement.

"It is in Sudan's own interest to release him immediately," Johns added. "We will continue to pursue all official and non-official channels in and out of Sudan to ensure our team's health and safety and to secure their release."

At a Tuesday press briefing in Washington, D.C., (read full transcript), U.S. State Department spokesperson Tom Casey confirmed that Frazer and al-Bashir discussed the Salopek case.

Casey offered no specifics on the conversation, but said Salopek is in "good health."

"We're continuing to visit him almost on a daily basis so that we can continue to verify the conditions in which he's being held and make sure he's okay," he said.

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