Vitter optimistic Sudan will release Slidell man

Washington, D.C. — Sen. David Vitter took to the Senate floor Tuesday to warn that this nation’s improving relationship with South Sudan could suffer serious consequences if the case against Slidell businessman Elton “Mark’’ McCabe is not dismissed.

McCabe, who had been working in South Sudan since August, was seized by the National Security Service, a South Sudan government agency, in mid-October. He spent weeks detained in prison but has been free on bail since Thanksgiving, when a South Sudan court convened a hearing to consider charges against him and his business partner, Mohamed, Oglah, an Iraqi.

“We’re looking at this case as a test of their judicial system and of their intentions,’’ Vitter said. “He has been held against his will with no evidence and no meaningful charges against him since Oct. 14.’’

Vitter said that he is optimistic that the case against McCabe will be thrown out when his hearing resumes Thursday.

“The judge virtually laughed in their (the prosecution’s ) face with this lack of a case,’’ Vitter said. But despite that, Vitter said that the prosecution still successfully sought additional time to organize their claims.

McCabe’s wife, Anne, said that the NSS falsely accused her husband of trying to kidnap an Indian businessman. She has been pressing for his release for weeks and is especially concerned because of his health. McCabe suffered a serious heart attack nearly a year ago and suffered a mild attack during his detention.

She said that her husband and his partner are staying in a villa now and have hired personal security guards because they are fearful for their safety.

“He can’t eat, he’s sick, he needs to get back and get care,’’ she said. He told her that he has lost 40 to 50 pounds during his ordeal.

According to Vitter, McCabe was “doing everything by the book, legally, ethically,’’ but that his business competitors held sway with the government and were able to get him detained and charged “with vague, very serious crimes.’’

Sara Pagones, New Orleans bureau chief, contributed to this story.