American journalist Paul Salopek was released on 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 website.
A judge in the North Darfur capital of el-Fasher 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 US state of New Mexico, had travelled to Sudan on Friday to meet with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and secure their release on humanitarian grounds.
Richardson was in el-Fasher on Saturday to pick up Salopek and his colleagues. Katharine Moseley, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Khartoum, said that the party left el-Fasher around 6 pm and were expected in the Sudanese capital on Saturday night.
"I'm doing great," Salopek told the Tribune after his release. "It's an interesting feeling being mobile again, in a mechanised vehicle."
Salopek's wife, Linda Lynch, and Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski travelled with Richardson to Sudan. A message left with Richardson's office in New Mexico was not immediately returned.
Salopek was on assignment for National Geographic magazine when he was arrested last month and accused of passingly, writing "false news" and entering the African country without a visa. His trial was set to begin on Sunday. The journalist, who won Pulitzer Prizes in 2001 and in 1998, was scheduled to return to New Mexico, where he has a home, as early as Sunday, and his two assistants were to go 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. In 1996, Richardson helped get three Red Cross workers, including an Albuquerque pilot, released from Marxist rebels in Sudan.