Three Israeli filmmakers who were imprisoned in Nigeria for 20 days were released from custody Wednesday night and boarded a plane for their journey back to Israel.
Nigerian authorities released the trio from prison Tuesday evening and handed them over to US custody. American embassy staff then took them to the local Chabad centre to spend the night.
They were given their passports and phones just before their flight took off for Istanbul Wednesday night.
The three Israelis will arrive at Ben Gurion Airport Thursday morning at 8:50 am.
Rudy Rochman, a pro-Israel activist with almost 95,000 followers on Instagram, filmmaker Andrew Noam Leibman and French-Israeli journalist Edouard David Benaym were arrested on July 9 while shooting a documentary in a separatist region of southeast Nigeria.
The Israelis 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 7:30 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 [sic].”
The DSS, or Department of State Services, is Nigeria’s internal security agency.
The men said they were taken into custody at gunpoint by “over a dozen” DSS men wearing black ski masks.
“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.”
The three men said in their statement that they were officially cleared of all wrongdoing, but were instructed by the Nigerian government to leave the country immediately.
They promised to find another way to tell the story of Igbo Jewish life.