Charges were dropped yesterday against Hartford Courant photographer Brad Clift, who was consequently able to leave the Darfur town of Nyala and travel to Khartoum with the aim of catching a flight to London later in the day.
Although free to move about in Darfur, Clift had been subject to an order to reside at the premises of the Christian NGO Sudan Aid in Nyala since 26 April pending a possible court appearance. Officially, he had been accused of not having the required visa and work permits.
29.04.2005 - US photographer arrested in Darfur region
Reporters Without Borders has called for an explanation from the Sudanese authorities for the arrest of US photographer Brad Clift, of the Hartford Courant newspaper, who has been held since 26 April 2005 in Darfur, western Sudan.
"We cannot understand the reasons for the arrest of this photographer, who has been deprived of his liberty for three days now," the worldwide press freedom" organisation said.
"That is why we are calling on the Sudanese authorities to clarify their reasons and to make public the charges against Clift as well as the exact place of his detention and the date of his court hearing, which is constantly being postponed."
Clift arrived in Sudan as a freelance photographer on 21 April, travelling with the Hartford Catholic Worker, an aid organisation distributing food to the Nyala camps. He was arrested while taking photos of the refugee camps.
According to the US State Department, he is reportedly under "house arrest" in the offices of a Sudanese Christian organisation Sudan Aid. Clift confirmed to the US consulate that he entered Sudan on a tourist visa and that he had no official accreditation to work or travel in Darfur as a photographer, as Sudanese practice requires. The consular officials reported after speaking to him that Clift was in good health
The picture editor of the Courant Hartford, John Scanlan, said he had contacted the US State Department which had assured him it was doing everything possible for Clift to be represented by a lawyer at his court hearing. The newspaper has had no direct contact with its staff member.
The US embassy in Khartoum said that a hearing set for 28 April for "charges to be put" had been cancelled, since the judge had not arrived. Another hearing on the day of his arrest was postponed for the same reason.
"The competent authorities must clear up the doubts in this case," said Reporters Without Borders. A journalist cannot be arrested just for taking photographs of the human drama unfolding in Darfur."
Contradictory reports have been circulating about where the photographer is being held. The British news agency Reuters said that he was being detained at the offices of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), near Nyala in the south of Darfur.