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, 44, was on a scheduled leave of absence from the Tribune and working on a freelance assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was arrested. He and the Chadians were not charged formally until 20 days later.
All three were freed Saturday, a day after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson traveled to Sudan and asked President Omar al-Bashir to release them on humanitarian grounds.
The Democratic governor, a former congressman, energy secretary and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, met al-Bashir a decade ago when Richardson helped negotiate the release of Red Cross workers held by Sudanese rebels. “I think a good part of [the successful negotiation] was the relationship we had,” Richardson said.
The party’s arrival Sunday in New Mexico was the happy conclusion to a difficult few weeks for Salopek, his family and his editors at the Tribune and National Geographic, who feared he would face trial on charges that his supporters said were baseless.
“Today, to be able to watch him speak and be with him is inexpressibly joyful for me,” said Salopek’s wife, Linda Lynch, who traveled to Sudan along with Richardson and Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski. National Geographic Editor in Chief Chris Johns met the group in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.
Go read the whole thing.
And then consider, these are the people, the people who take risks like this, that Melanie Morgan thinks should be hung, that Ass Missile calls traitors, that those “Rope. Tree. Journalist.” dickheads like to make T-shirts about. People like these.