• Updates

September 3, 2008

Help free Andrew Berends

A fellow Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker, Andrew Berends, has been arrested in Nigeria on suspicion of espionage while working on his new film about the troubled Delta oil region.

From AP: A U.S. documentary filmmaker was arrested along with his translator and accused of spying after he filmed soldiers in Nigeria’s troubled oil region, a military spokesman and media rights organization said Tuesday.

Nigerian Lt. Col. Sagir Musa said the military handed the American to state security operatives for questioning after arresting him in the southern oil center of Port Harcourt. He said investigators were seeking “to ascertain his mission and why he intruded in our operational area, snapped video shots of troops and their deployment without clearance.”

The Paris-based rights group Reporters Without Borders identified the filmmaker as Andrew Berends, from New York. Berends was arrested with his Nigerian interpreter and a local bar owner on Aug. 31 in the southern city of Port Harcourt, the group said in a statement.

Ways you can help: if you’re in the states, contact your representative in Congress and ask him or her to take action on Andrew’s behalf. You can also call Andrew’s representative, Yvette Clarke, at 718-287-1142. Or write New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer. If you’re not in the US, please try and spread the word about Andrew’s situation to your local government officials and media. Any pressure we can apply on the Nigerian government this week may help get Andrew released quickly.

Update: Friends have now started a blog to post developments in Andy’s case.

Bigger update: Yes! Andy was released September 10th, thanks in part to the actions of his fellow filmmakers and a group of US politicians. But there is still concern for the two Nigerian citizens who were arrested along with him, and are still being detained. Get more info.

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