Slidell man waits to leave S. Sudan

Elton Mark McCabe’s ordeal in South Sudan, where he has been detained since mid-October, is nearing an end with a judge’s decision Thursday to dismiss all charges against him, according to Sen. David Vitter’s office.

But the 52-year-old Slidell businessman can’t leave the country until its minister of justice signs papers releasing him, which means more waiting for him and his family.

“The South Sudanese judge has formally dropped the charges against Mark McCabe,’’ Vitter said. “Unfortunately, their minister of justice still has to sign a paper to allow him to leave the country, and that’s not scheduled until Dec. 6. I’ll be contacting the South Sudanese ambassador today to say how outrageous that is and to push to expedite that date.’’

McCabe is at the U.S. Embassy for safety, Vitter said.

McCabe went to South Sudan in August to work on business development projects, including health clinics and Internet infrastructure. He was seized by the National Security Services, a South Sudanese agency, in mid-October and was not released on bail until Thanksgiving Day.

His wife, Anne McCabe, described her feelings as “cautiously happy.’’ But she remains concerned about her husband’s health and anxious to see him returned to the United States, his family and his doctors.

McCabe suffers from a heart condition and suffered a mild heart attack while in custody. Vitter’s office pressed the South Sudan government to allow him to leave the country to see a cardiologist in Kenya, something urged by doctors who examined him in Juba, but the government did not allow him to do so.

Anne McCabe spoke to her husband briefly Thursday.

“He said he’s safe, but it won’t be over until he is in the air,’’ she said.

She spent Thursday morning searching her attic for a special decoration — a 20th anniversary Christmas tree topper. She wants to paint it silver and put it on their tree to celebrate their 25th anniversary, which took place while he was in custody.