US film-maker accused of espionage still being held in Nigeria

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U.S. filmmaker Andrew Berends continues to be interrogated by security forces in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, while authorities have told translator Samuel George to report to security in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, local journalists told CPJ. Today marks the ninth day security forces have conducted day-long interrogations of Berends and George on accusations of espionage.

Nigeria’s State Security Services have not provided any indication as to
when Berends or George will be released. They continue to hold Berends’ personal belongings, including his passport, he told colleagues in an e-mail.

“It is unacceptable to continue to hold Andrew Berends in Nigeria against
his will and interrogate him every day,” CPJ’s Africa program coordinator
Tom Rhodes said. “Nigeria’s democratic credentials deteriorate each day
that these journalists are detained. We call on the authorities to return
Berends’ passport and to release Berends and Samuel George immediately.”

Military personnel arrested Berends and George and then handed them over to the security services on August 31 in Port Harcourt, local journalists told CPJ. The authorities accused Berends of espionage and detained him for 36 hours after his arrest, then ordered him to report for day-long interrogations every day since. He was provisionally released into the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja over the weekend. George remained in custody throughout the week but was also temporarily released over the weekend.

Berends legally entered Nigeria in April to work on a documentary called
“Delta Boys,” sponsored by the New York-based Tribeca Film Institute,
about the Niger Delta region’s oil conflict.

U.S. senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) sent
letters to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week urging her to ensure the two are released. Berends resides in New York. Christiane
Amanpour, a CPJ board member and CNN’s chief international correspondent, also called for the journalist’s and translator’s release.

Filmmakers working on the documentary “Sweet Crude” were detained in April and held on unsubstantiated charges.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit Updates the Berends and George cases:
For further information on the “Sweet Crude” film crew case, see:

For further information, contact Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes or Research Associate Mohamed Keita at CPJ, 330 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10001, U.S.A., tel: +1 212 465 1004, fax: +1 212 465 9568, e-mail:,, Internet:

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