Three Israeli filmmakers who were imprisoned in Nigeria for nearly three weeks have been released.
Rudy Rochman, Andrew Leibman, and Edouard David Benaym landed in Israel on Thursday after their release on Tuesday, the country’s minister of foreign affairs, Yair Lapid confirmed.
“I am very happy that Rudy, Andrew and David were freed from detention in Nigeria and returned to Israel this morning,” said Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in a statement released shortly after the three landed.
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“My thanks to the staff of the Foreign Ministry, the Consular Department, and especially to the Nigerian authorities and the deputy ambassador in Nigeria, Yotam Kreiman, on their unceasing efforts to help secure their release,” he said.
Rochman, a pro-Israel activist, Leibman a filmmaker and French-Israeli journalist Benaym in a statement published on their Instagram Wednesday night, said they were “wrongfully taken on Friday July 9th, 2021 at 7:30 AM (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, 9 hours away with dangerous transport.”
The trio were working on a documentary on Igbo communities titled “We were Never Lost.”
The documentary tells the story of Jewish communities in African countries such as Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda and Nigeria.
They were focusing on the Igbo Jewish community in Nigeria.
The men said they had been taken into custody at gunpoint by over a dozen DSS men wearing black ski masks.
The three men said in their statement that they had been officially cleared of all wrongdoing, but were instructed by the Nigerian government to leave the country immediately.
The filmmakers also noted that they are aware of the political sensitivity surrounding the filming of the Igbo community and dissociated themselves from having anything to do with the pro-separatist movement, the Indigenous People of Biafra, whose leader Nnamdi Kanu is being held by authorities on treason charges.
“We do not take any position on political movements as we are not here as politicians nor as a part of any governmental delegations,” the trio said in a statement.
The leader of Pro-Biafra separatist group Nnamdi Kanu who had been on the run since 2017 was rearrested, extradited to Nigeria in July.
Kanu was re-arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja and ordered to be remanded in the custody of the DSS, while the case was adjourned.
The IPOB leader is facing a sleuth of charges, most of which are connected to his call for the independence of the southeastern region of Nigeria.