The Department of State Services (DSS) has finally released three Israeli filmmakers held in Nigeria for 20 days.
1st News reports that the men were arrested by the DSS after being accused of allegedly entering the country to meet with Biafran agitators.
The three men, Rudy Rochman, a pro-Israel activist; filmmaker Andrew Noam Leibman and French-Israeli journalist Edouard David Benaym were arrested on Friday, July 9, 2021 while shooting a documentary in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
Consequently, the men were clamped into detention in a DSS facility while investigations into their mission in Nigeria continued. However, they were eventually released from prison on Tuesday evening and handed over to US custody. The Israeli filmmakers were then taken to a local Chabad centre where they spent the night.
On Wednesday night, they were re-issued their seized passports and phones and boarded a flight to Istanbul. The flight is expected to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport this morning, Thursday July 29 at 8:50 am.
Meanwhile, the filmmakers have denied any wrongdoing.
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They disclosed that they were in Nigeria to film “We Were Never Lost,” a documentary exploring Jewish communities in African countries such as Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda and Nigeria. They were focusing on the Igbo Jewish community in Nigeria.
In a statement published on Instagram Wednesday night; the trio said that they were wrongfully taken on Friday July 9th, 2021 at 7:30am (Nigerian time); to the local DSS facility in Anambra State, Nigeria where they were held for 24 hours; before being transported to the DSS headquarters in Abuja, nine hours away. The men said they were taken into custody at gunpoint by “over a dozen” DSS men wearing black ski masks, reports the Times of Israel.
Further, the statement accused the DSS of treating them in dehumanizing conditions.
“Rudy, Noam, and David were caged and held for 20 days in horrendous conditions, locked into a small cell, sleeping on the floor with no access to showers or clean clothes. They were interrogated and mistreated without ever officially being arrested or accused of anything.”
Also, the three men said in their statement that they were officially cleared of all wrongdoing. However, they revealed that they were instructed by the Nigerian government to leave the country immediately.
But they promised to find another way to tell the story of Igbo Jewish life.
Meanwhile, the Isreali Embassy had initially had difficulties intervening in the matter. This was because one of the men entered Nigeria on a French passport; while the other two came in on American passports.
Also, the families of the three Israeli filmmakers accused local Nigerian politicians of twisting the gifting of a Torah scroll to a local Igbo community; describing it as a support for Biafra. The documentary series embarked on by the filmmakers is designed to educate viewers about the religious and cultural experiences of lesser-known Jewish communities.
”Their goal is to interview members of Jewish communities across multiple African countries; along with Jewish communities in China, India, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” their families told the Times of Israel.
The men were nabbed by the DSS at a synagogue services in the Igbo village of Ogidi, Anambra State.
The Igbo consider themselves a lost tribe of Israel.