ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sudanese leader agrees to release after meeting with Richardson.
New Mexico’s globe-trotting governor appears to have done it again.
The president of the African nation of Sudan today agreed to free New Mexico-based journalist Paul Salopek and two of his colleagues who were arrested on espionage charges last month after meeting with Gov. Bill Richardson, a spokesman for the governor told The Associated Press.
Salopek, who has a home in Columbus, N.M., was arrested Aug. 6 along with his driver and interpreter, both from Chad, by pro-government forces in the war-torn region of Darfur, according to the AP.
The men were charged with espionage, illegally passing information and for reporting "false news," the AP said.
But Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir agreed to their release after meeting with Richardson, shortly after the governor landed in the capital city of Khartoum today, the AP reported.
Richardson had told reporters before taking off Thursday — accompanied by Salopek’s wife, Linda Lynch, and the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter’s boss at the Chicago Tribune, Ann Marie Lipinski — that he would stay as long as it took to secure the men’s release — even if it took till Election Day, where he is running for re-election as governor.
As it turned out, it took less than a day from his arrival in Khartoum.
"The governor asked for their release on humanitarian grounds," spokesman Pahl Shipley said. "He knows (al-Bashir) understands the value of a free and independent press and the president agreed" to the release, the AP said.
Nearly 10 years ago, Richardson — shortly before he left Congress to be appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — went to Sudan and secured the release of Albuquerque pilot John Early and two Red Cross workers who had been captured by rebels.
Richardson also has helped gain the release of Americans held prisoner in Iraq, North Korea and Cuba, according to the AP report.
Salopek and his colleagues are expected to be released Saturday, the AP said.