The three Israelis who were arrested three weeks ago by Nigerian authorities for alleged contact with Biafran separatists were released from prison and are now safely back in Israel.
Pro-Israel activist Rudy Rochman, filmmaker Andrew Noam Leibman and French-Israeli journalist were in Nigeria to film a documentary on lesser-known Jewish communities around the world when they were arrested.
The three were released from prison on Tuesday evening and transferred to US custody (two of them are US citizens). US embassy staff brought them to the local Chabad center for one night and on Wednesday night they boarded a flight to Israel via Istanbul, according to a Times of Israel report. Their passports and phones were returned to them right before they boarded their flight.
Since two of the men entered the country with US passports and the third with a French passport, the Israeli embassy had difficulty getting involved at the beginning, the TOA report said.
A press release on behalf of the trio published on Wednesday stated that the three men “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 (Department of State Services, Nigerian security agency) headquarters in Abuja, 9 hours away with dangerous transport.”
— Michael Dickson (@michaeldickson) July 28, 2021
The statement continued to explain that the men were in Nigeria to film a documentary of lesser-known Jewish communities and “Nigerian bloggers hijacked images” from their social media pages and “fabricated an association between the Israeli crew to separatist movements in Southern Nigeria likely in order to gain more publicity.”
“Due to the factually incorrect and inflammatory blogs, the Nigerian government ‘suspected’ the team and took them into custody by over a dozen DSS men with black ski masks at gunpoint. From the moment they were taken their phones and passports were stripped from and they were at no point of their detainment able to contact anyone.”
“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.”
Although the men were officially cleared of any crime, the Nigerian authorities ordered them to leave the country immediately.
Rudy Rochman and his film-making team were released from prison in Nigeria.
They are expected to land in Israel in a few hours. Prayers have been answered. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/SuLlLrZkDY
— Hananya Naftali (@HananyaNaftali) July 29, 2021
The local Chabad house and Jewish community provided kosher food for the men while they were in prison, which included three Shabbosim.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)