KHARTOUM, Sudan -- American journalist Paul Salopek was released yesterday from a prison in the war-torn Darfur region where he was held for more than a month on espionage charges.
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.
Speaking at a news conference after arriving in Khartoum, Salopek, 44, thanked the Sudanese president and Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico for their help in securing his release, and said his treatment was excellent while in detention.
Richardson traveled to Sudan Friday to meet with President Omar al-Bashir and persuaded him to release Salopek, as well as the driver and interpreter. He picked up Salopek and his colleagues in El Fasher yesterday and took them to Khartoum.
Salopek's wife, Linda Lynch, and Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski traveled with Richardson to Sudan.
Salopek was on assignment for National Geographic 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 scheduled to begin today.
``We are stopping the case and we are releasing you right now. And that is all," the judge said in English.
Richardson's office said the governor convinced the Sudanese president that Salopek is a constituent and a respected American journalist, not a spy.
Salopek was detained Aug. 6.
The journalist, who won Pulitzer Prizes in 2001 and in 1998, was scheduled to return today to New Mexico, where he has a home. His two assistants were to go to Chad, the Tribune reported.