Sudan Frees "Geographic" Reporter Held as Spy

Ted Chamberlain
September 9, 2006

National Geographic magazine reporter Paul Salopek, who had been charged with spying, and two African colleagues have been released from a Sudanese jail in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur Province.

"We are stopping the case and we are releasing you right now. And that is all," Judge Hosham Mohammed Yousif said to the U.S. journalist and his two African colleagues after a brief proceeding today, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The release comes one day after New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson spoke with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in the capital, Khartoum, on behalf of Salopek, who is a New Mexico resident.

Salopek, who is on a scheduled leave of absence from the Tribune, was met in El Fasher by Richardson; Chris Johns, National Geographic magazine Editor in Chief; Linda Lynch, Salopek's wife; and Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski.

"Everybody is absolutely delighted," National Geographic's Johns told the Tribune. "I've worked for 20 years in Africa and never had a better day than this one."

Salopek and his party arrived by plane in Khartoum around 8 p.m., local time.

At a subsequent press conference, Salopek said his "treatment was excellent."

Speaking by phone after the conference, Johns echoed the sentiment.

"The longer Paul stayed in Sudan, the better his accommodations became. The Sudanese took good care of him," Johns said. "No handcuffs, no leg irons."

Around 11 p.m., local time, Salopek, Lynch, Lipinski, and Richardson left Sudan on a New Mexico-bound plane. Johns remained in Khartoum to ensure that Salopek's driver and interpreter make it home safely to neighboring Chad (map of the region).

"Paul told me he's concerned about of the safe return home of his Chadian interpreter and driver—Suleiman Abakar Moussa and Idriss Abdulraham Anu. … " Johns had said on Friday.

"I assured him that I and the National Geographic Society will take responsibility for getting them home safely."

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