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Sudan to consider case of US journalist accused of spying

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Aug 29, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudanese president said Tuesday he would consider the case of a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist arrested in the war-torn Darfur region and accused of spying, a presidential aide said.

Paul Salopek, a U.S. writer for National Geographic magazine, talks with unidentified persons inside a court in Al Fasher, nothern Darfur August 26, 2006. (Reuters)

President Omar al-Bashir said during a meeting with a senior U.S. envoy that he would consider Chicago Tribune reporter Paul Salopek’s "case out of a humanitarian standpoint," said al-Bashir’s spokesman Mahjud Fadul Bedry.

Al-Bashir met with Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, who was on a mission to end the violence in Darfur when she raised Salopek’s with Sudanese officials.

Salopek, who was in Sudan on assignment for National Geographic magazine, his driver and interpreter were arrested by pro-government forces on Aug. 6. He was charged Saturday with espionage, passing information illegally, writing "false news" and entering the African country without a visa.

Ann Marie Lipinski, Chicago Tribune editor and senior vice president, has said Salopek is not a spy and urged the government to allow him to return home. Several journalism watchdog groups and human rights organizations also have called for his release.

The State Department also has urged Sudan to ensure a fair and speedy judicial process.

Despite saying he would consider Salopek’s case, al-Bashir also said Tuesday that the conflict in Darfur was "exaggerated by the Western media by repeatedly publishing allegations of ethnic cleansing and rape," Bedry said.

More than 200,000 people have died in the remote Darfur region since 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led Khartoum government.

In 2001, Salopek won a Pulitzer for international reporting for his work covering Africa. In 1998, he won a Pulitzer for explanatory reporting for his coverage of the Human Genome Diversity Project.

(AP/ST)

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