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Salopek Comes Home

(AP Photo)
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was successful in his diplomatic efforts to win the release of journalist Paul Salopek, who had been held in Sudan on charges of espionage. Salopek returned to his home in New Mexico yesterday and his paper, the Chicago Tribune, spoke with him about the ordeal:
In the darkest moments of his monthlong detention in Sudan, Chicago Tribune correspondent Paul Salopek said, it was difficult to shake the feeling that he was going to face years in a dank jail cell.

After arriving in his home state of New Mexico on Sunday, Salopek said that for nearly two weeks after his Aug. 6 arrest, Sudanese forces held him in three jails, passing around him and his Chadian driver and interpreter like "a hot potato."

On the 13th day, his government jailers told him at the end of a marathon interrogation that they had found notebooks of interviews with refugees in Chad and maps of Sudan among his belongings.

They told the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner that they knew from this evidence that he was a spy, and that he would face charges of espionage, passing information illegally, writing "false news" and entering the country illegally.

"At that point, I felt they were setting us up for a show trial to discourage all journalists from crossing into Darfur," Salopek said.

Salopek was on leave from the Tribune and was working on a freelance assignment about Darfur for the National Geographic magazine and was captured along with his driver and interpreter while attempting to enter the Darfur region from Chad. The media is frequently criticized for ignoring or not reporting on Darfur and other scenes of humanitarian crises. Salopek's story should be a reminder that it's not always easy or safe to do be there and should make us even more thankful for the efforts of those who try to bring these stories home.
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