Actor released from Pakistani prison, returns to Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES – Actor Erik Anthony Aude, who was freed from a Pakistani prison after serving two years on a drug charge, returned home Sunday night to an emotional reunion with family and friends.
Aude, who had minor roles in the television show, “Reba” and the hit film “Dude, Where’s My Car?” was freed Thursday from a jail in Rawalpindi, a city near Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.
“I’m lucky to be here right now and I’m happy,” Aude said upon his arrival at Los Angeles International Airport.
Aude had missed a scheduled Christmas Day flight, but a throng of supporters returned Sunday to the airport to greet him.
“You really have no idea how lucky we are as Americans. We live like kings,” Aude said. “I’m lucky to be here on American soil and I’ll never take advantage of that again.”
Aude, who declined to tell reporters about his prison ordeal, said he was looking forward to eating a chili dog.
His mother, Sherry, has said her son lost 40 pounds during his imprisonment and was beaten by fellow prisoners, including some jailed members of the Taliban and al-Qaida terrorist network.
Aude was arrested at Islamabad airport Feb. 15, 2002, after authorities said they found 7.9 pounds of opium in a suitcase he was carrying minutes before he was to leave on a flight for Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Aude maintained he had no idea how the drugs got into his luggage but was sentenced in January 2003 to seven years in prison. Two months ago, convicted drug dealer Razmik Minasian declared in a sworn statement he never told Aude about the drugs in the suitcase.
Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, was among those who had lobbied for Aude’s release. Last month he gave Pakistani officials Minasian’s statement that the actor wasn’t involved in drug smuggling.