The three Israeli filmmakers who were arrested in Nigeria on July 9, including Israeli activist Rudy Rochman, were released from custody on July 28.
The three filmmakers were making a documentary series called “We Were Never Lost” to interview lesser-known Jewish communities in various countries at the time of their arrest. The “We Were Never Lost” Instagram page posted a press release stating that Rochman, along with Andrew Noam Leibman and Eduoard David Benaym, were interviewing the Igbo community in Nigeria, who consider themselves to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. The press release accused “Nigerian bloggers” of “hijacking images” to falsely claim that Rochman, Leibman and Benaym were supporting a separatist movement within the Igbo community.
“Due to the factually incorrect and inflammatory blogs, the Nigerian government ‘suspected’ the team and took them into custody,” the press stated, adding that the three filmmakers were put into “a small cell” with “horrendous conditions” for 20 days. “They were interrogated and mistreated without ever officially being arrested or accused of anything. There were countless human and international violations that occurred.” The Chabad of Nigeria eventually provided Rochman, Leibman and Benaym with daily Kosher meals.
The three filmmakers have since been released and cleared of wrongdoing, but the Nigerian government demanded that they be sent back home immediately. The three filmmakers plan to return to Nigeria to finish their docuseries.
“Our hearts, prayers, and thought go out to the Igbo Jewish communities we met and to those we had planned to visit,” Rochman said in a statement. “We thank you for hosting us for the few days we shared and will not give up on you.”
One of the leaders of the Igbo community, Ima Lisbon, was also detained with the three filmmakers and is still incarcerated; Rochman told the Chabad of Nigeria to keep giving her food with the hope that she’ll eventually be released, according to the statement.
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Various Jewish and pro-Israel Twitter users expressed gratitude and relief that the three filmmakers have been released.
GREAT NEWS – Rudy Rochman, Andrew Liebman and Edouard David Benaym have been RELEASED from Nigerian custody and are on their way to Israel.
The three men were detained over 3 weeks ago while filming a documentary exploring the country's Jewish communities.
— StopAntisemitism.org (@StopAntisemites) July 28, 2021
— Michael Dickson (@michaeldickson) July 28, 2021
— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) July 28, 2021
The first season of “We Were Never Lost” will focus on Jewish communities in Africa. The filmmakers plan to film Jewish communities in other countries like China and Afghanistan.