Andrew returns home; Samuel’s fate undetermined
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American filmmaker returned to US after detainment by Nigerian government
NEW YORK, September 11, 2008 –Andrew Berends, the American filmmaker who had been detained by Nigerian State Security Services was returned to the United States Wednesday. He was escorted to his plane by Nigerian immigration officers without an explanation as to why he was being sent home. Berends was never charged with a crime, and had a legal business visa in his passport at the time of his detainment.
His Nigerian translator, Samuel George, has been provisionally released, but is expected to return to the State Security Services offices at noon on Friday, along with a third man who had also been detained. The status of any investigation against them is still uncertain.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) jointly sponsored a letter, written to the President of Nigeria calling for Berends’ immediate release, and signed by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Robert Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Kerry (D-MA).
This is the third in a string of similar detainments of American journalists in the past two years by the Nigerian government. Most recently, five members of the crew making the documentary film “Sweet Crude” were detained for seven days, before ultimately being released without being charged.
Berends says, “I am extremely disappointed with this pattern of suppressing press freedom in Nigeria. It calls into question the Nigerian government’s sincerity when it comes to upholding the basic tenets of democracy since the transition from military rule in 1999.”
Berends was in Nigeria working on his documentary film, “Delta Boys,” about the militancy in the Niger Delta. He had been arrested at Nembe Waterside in Port Harcourt along with his translator, Samuel George, while filming women on their way to market. He had been granted permission to film by the military sergeant in charge in the area.