New York, September 8, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the promised release of a U.S. reporter imprisoned in Sudan since August 6 on espionage charges. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir agreed today to release Paul Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Chadian interpreter Suleiman Abakar Moussa, driver Idriss Abdelrahman Anu on humanitarian grounds, The Associated Press reported.
Al-Bashir’s decision followed a meeting with Bill Richardson, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who traveled to Khartoum with Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski and Salopek’s wife, Linda. Richardson, now governor of New Mexico, was scheduled to pick up Salopek and his two colleagues on Saturday in the country’s war-ravaged Darfur region, AP reported.
“We’re relieved that this ordeal has finally come to end and look forward to Paul Salopek’s safe return home,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.
Pro-Sudanese forces detained the three men in Darfur while Salopek was on a freelance assignment for the U.S. magazine National Geographic, reporting on the culture, geography, and history of Africa’s Sahel region. A court in El-Fasher later charged the three with espionage, illegally disseminating information, and writing “false news,” in addition to a non-criminal count of entering the country without a visa.
Al-Bashir last week ordered the release of another foreign journalist, Slovenian Tomo Kriznar, who had been held since mid-July on a similar espionage charge.