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American Journalist Released In Sudan

American journalist Paul Salopek was released Saturday from a prison in the war-torn Darfur region where he was held for more than a month on espionage charges, the Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site.

A judge in the el-Fasher courthouse released the Chicago Tribune journalist and his Chadian driver and interpreter after a 13-minute hearing. "We are stopping the case and we are releasing you right now. And that is all," the judge said in English, the Tribune reported.

Bill Richardson, the governor of the U.S. state of New Mexico, had traveled to Sudan on Friday to meet with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and secure their release on humanitarian grounds. He traveled to el-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, on Saturday to pick up Salopek and his colleagues and was scheduled to return to Khartoum Saturday night.

"I'm doing great," Salopek told the Tribune after his release. "It's an interesting feeling being mobile again, in a mechanized vehicle."

The journalist, who won Pulitzer Prizes in 2001 and in 1998, was on assignment for National Geographic magazine at the time of his arrest. He was scheduled to return to New Mexico, where he has a home, as early as Sunday, and his two assistants to Chad, according to the Tribune.

"I think this is a triumph of diplomacy. It shows we can make a difference even if we have wide differences, which (the United States and Sudan) do," said Richardson, the Tribune reported.

Salopek's wife, Linda Lynch, and Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski traveled with Richardson to Sudan. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said the party left el-Fasher around 6 p.m. and she believed Salopek was on board the plane heading to the Sudanese capital.

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