The men landed in Nigeria on July 6.
In a statement published on Instagram after their release from Nigerian custody on July 27, 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 trasport [sic].”
The men said they had been 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 statement read.
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.
They promised to find another way to tell the story of Igbo Jewish life.From L-R, Andrew Leibman, Rudy Rochman, Abuja Chabad Rabbi Mendy Sternbach, Gabbi Kreinman; Acting Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria Yotam Kreinman David Benaym eat dinner at Chabad-Lubavitch of Abuja, Nigeria on July 28, 2021, after Leibman, Rochman and Benaym were released from detention. (Courtesy)
The families of the three Israelis had said that local political elements had “twisted” the gifting of a Torah scroll to a local community to claim it constituted support for separatist political ambitions. The Torah scroll is currently with the local community.ADVERTISEMENT
The Igbo consider themselves a lost tribe of Israel. The filmmakers were aware of the political sensitivity surrounding the filming of the community, noting on their documentary’s Facebook page: “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 documentary series planned by the trio was “designed to educate viewers about the religious and cultural experiences of lesser-known Jewish communities. Their goal is to interview members of Jewish communities across multiple African countries, along with Jewish communities in China, India, Afghanistan and elsewhere,” their families said after the arrest.Igbo mother and child. (photo credit: Shai Afsai/Times of Israel)
In January, a conflict broke out in southeastern Nigeria between Nigerian forces and the military wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement. The fight is ongoing.
A previous unilateral declaration of independence by the Igbo people in 1967 sparked a brutal 30-month civil war that left more than a million people dead.