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Imprisoned British pilot released from CAR

Sept. 11, 2012 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

LONDON, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- A British pilot held in the Central African Republic as part of a massacre investigation has been freed, British Foreign Secretary William Hague says.

David Simpson, 24, a bush pilot working in Africa on behalf of a Swedish safari hunting firm, spent 162 days in a prison in the CAR capital of Bangui after being accused of involvement in the massacre of 13 gold miners.

The pilot said he and other employees of his company stumbled across the bodies in March and reported them to authorities but, after the military investigated, he was quickly arrested and accused of committing the slayings himself.

He and 12 other staff members of his company were imprisoned without charges.

But Hague announced Saturday Simpson was back in Britain following dismissal of the charges.

"I am delighted to confirm that David Simpson is now back in the U.K.," Hague said in a statement. "Government ministers and officials have worked hard on his behalf. I raised the case with Central African Republic Foreign Minister (Antoine) Gambi in August and am pleased that his case has now been resolved.

"(The) Foreign Office Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, has spoken to Mr. Simpson's family to pass on his and my best wishes."

Evidence from the brutal and ritualistic slayings seemed to point to the involvement of the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army, a militant group comprised of child and ex-child soldiers, The Guardian reported.

But Simpson said he and others from the Central African Wildlife Adventures group were implicated through false testimony and bribe-seeking officials in the notoriously corrupt former French colony.

After being imprisoned in the Ngaragba Central Prison, Simpson was put under house arrest when the jail was stormed by rioters and destroyed this month. Simpson was returned to prison shortly thereafter.

Simpson contacted malaria more than once and subsisted on cassava mash and meat stew while sharing his cell with a dozen other suspected criminals, he told The Sunday Telegraph.

The pilot said he tried to keep sane by running laps in the courtyard and reading novels supplied to him by the CAR's British counsel.

Simpson arrived at his parents' Yorkshire home Saturday, telling ITV News: "It's great, it's great. I've been thinking about this day for a long time and it's good to be finally here. It's just a little crazy from Bangui to Gillamore (Yorkshire) in a day, it's crazy, it's such a different world but it's very good to be home."

Simpson's father, Pete Simpson, blasted CAR authorities.

"There doesn't seem to be any respect for a young life and they would rather implicate innocent people than find out who had done it all and that's what I don't understand," he said. "I don't understand that at all."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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