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DSS refuses to charge 3 Israelis arrested in Nigeria

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Almost after the arrest of three Israeli filmmakers by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Anambra State on July 9, the secret police is yet to disclose why it arrested the trio or charge them to court.

The three Israelis — Rudy Rochman, a Zionist activist; filmmaker Noam Leibman; and French-Israeli journalist E. David Benaym — were reportedly arrested over alleged affiliation with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The Times of Israel reported that they took off from Ben Gurion Airport on July 5 and landed in Nigeria the next day.

It reported that according to locals, the crew was detained at a synagogue during Friday night services in the village of Ogidi and flown to Abuja where they have been detained since then.

Messages sent to the DSS spokesman, Dr Peter Afunanya, for his response on the matter had not been replied to at the time of filing this report.

Benyam, it was learnt, was temporarily released from police custody on Tuesday evening and handed over to the French Embassy in Abuja for unspecified medical reasons.

Families to the Israelis insisted that they were shooting a documentary when they were arrested. The paper said this was confirmed by the Foreign Ministry.

According to the families, the allegations were entirely unfounded, saying that separatist social media accounts took advantage of the Israelis’ trip to claim that the three were supporting Biafran separatist groups.

The Israelis said they were in Nigeria to film “We Were Never Lost,” a documentary exploring Jewish communities in African countries such as Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda and Nigeria.

Relatives of the filmmakers said the gifting of a Torah scroll to the local community was “twisted” by local political actors to imply political backing for separatist political ambitions.

In a statement, the families explained that the filmmakers had brought gifts for the communities hosting them.

“The filmmaking crew thought it would be a nice gesture to bring several gifts with cultural symbolism to the communities it planned to visit,” the families said in their statement, adding that one of the gifts was the Torah scroll.

“Unfortunately, members of non-state political groups have hijacked for their own purposes images of the filmmakers gifting a Torah to a local community.

“These individuals are distorting the intentions of the filmmakers in an effort to manufacture a connection to local political matters when no such connection exists.

“These politically motivated actors have taken a simple gesture of kindness and twisted it in an attempt to create an alternate meaning.

“The documentary series is 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.

“This documentary is not intended to make any political statements about the countries in which filming will take place, nor does the filmmaking team endorse any political movements.

“The filmmaking crew acts as a guest visiting the country and its various communities – there are no political overtones.

“We are working diligently with the US, Israeli and French Embassies on the matter, and we greatly appreciate the attention they have given to the situation.

“Their involvement has helped to improve the conditions of the filmmakers while in custody – including the delivery of kosher meals prepared by the local Chabad.

“We hope that the DSS will quickly conclude what the facts support – that the filmmaking team has no political motives and that the team should be released from custody as soon as possible,” the families said.

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