Sudan charges Paul Salopek with espionage

Just after those Fox News journalists were released in Gaza, I heard that twice Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Salopek has been charged with espionage in Sudan. I had the opportunity to meet Paul once, around the time Iraq was invaded. He was an extremely humble and smart journalist (a rare combination in this profession) and we had a long talk about sub-Saharan Africa, where he reported from for years, and our common love for Ryszard Kapucinski's books. At the time he was coming back from a sabbatical running his family's cattle farm in Mexico.

I realize that this isn't exactly the worse thing happening in Sudan -- hopefully this will be one area where US policy will be a force for good in the region -- but let's hope he and the people arrested with him (two Chadians, who are going to have a tough time considering the current tension between Chad and Sudan) will make it out of this mess.

AP story after the jump.

Chicago Tribune Reporter Charged With Espionage in Sudanese Court

Associated Press
August 26, 2006 5:15 p.m.

CHICAGO -- A Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune was charged in a Sudanese court Saturday with espionage and two other criminal counts, the paper said.

The 40-minute court hearing involving Paul Salopek, 44, took place three weeks after he and two Chadian nationals were arrested by pro-government forces in the war-torn region of Darfur, the Tribune reported Saturday on its Web site. He was working on a freelance assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was arrested.

"He is not a spy," Chicago Tribune Editor and Senior Vice President Ann Marie Lipinski said in a statement. "Our fervent hope is that the authorities in Sudan will recognize his innocence and quickly allow Paul to return home to his wife, Linda, and to his colleagues."

Chris Johns, National Geographic's editor in chief, said Mr. Salopek was in Sudan writing an article on a sub-Saharan African region known as the Sahel.

"He had no agenda other than to fairly and accurately report on the region," Mr. Johns said.

Mr. Salopek has been in telephone contact with National Geographic and Tribune editors, who have "worked through political and diplomatic channels in the U.S. and overseas to secure their release," the paper said.

"We are deeply worried about Paul and his well-being, and appeal to the government of Sudan to return him safely home," said Ms. Lipinski, who called Mr. Salopek "one of the most accomplished and admired journalists of our time."

Mr. Salopek was arrested with his interpreter and driver on Aug. 6, the Tribune said. All three were charged Saturday with espionage, passing information illegally and writing "false news."

Mr. Salopek was on a scheduled leave of absence from the Tribune when he was detained.

A judge in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state in western Sudan, granted a defense motion for a continuance, delaying the start of the trial until Sept. 10.

In 2001, Mr. Salopek won a Pulitzer for international reporting for his work covering Africa. In 1998, he won a Pulitzer for explanatory reporting for his coverage of the Human Genome Diversity Project.

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press