(Left to right) David Benaym, Rudy Rochman and Andrew Leibman arrive in Israel on July 29, 2021. (David Benaym) (David Benaym)
Israeli filmmakers

Israeli filmmakers landed in Tel Aviv on Thursday morning following three week ordeal with Nigerian secret police.

By United with Israel Staff

Three Israeli filmmakers detained by Nigerian authorities arrived in Israel on Thursday morning after being released from three weeks of custody.

Rudy Rochman, a 27-year-old pro-Israel activist and filmmaker, Noam (Andrew) Leibman and French-Israeli journalist David Benaym were filming a documentary about Jewish communities in Africa when they were arrested by the Department of State Services, Nigeria’s secret police. They were suspected of meeting separatist leaders in the Biafra region.

Rochman and Leibman also hold U.S. citizenship. Rochman has close to 100,000 followers on Instagram and his pro-Israel videos on YouTube have racked up hundreds of thousands of views. Israeli, U.S. and French diplomats worked to secure their release while Chabad was able to provide kosher food during their incarceration.

In a statement published on Instagram Wednesday night, the three said that some local Nigerians deliberately distorted their visit for political purposes.

“Due to 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 them 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.”

On Tuesday, they were notified that they would be released, and were advised to leave Nigeria immediately.

Prior to their arrest, the three visited the Igbo Jews in the Biafran village of Ogidi. The Israelis visited Igbo leader Eze Chukwuemeka Eri and presented him with a decorative synagogue ornament called a sheviti. They also donated a Torah scroll to another Nigerian synagogue.

In recent months, Biafran separatist groups have become more vocal in their calls for secession.

Earlier in July, Nigeria abducted the self-identifying Jewish Biafran separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya. Kanu — the leader of the the Indigenous People of Biafra movement — was charged with terrorism and incitement but fled Nigeria while on bail in 2017.



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