Andrew Berends Released!

From Reporters Without Borders:

Press release
September 9, 2008
NIGERIA

US filmmaker and reporter released after ten days of questioning

Reporters Without Borders is relieved today by the news that US filmmaker and reporter Andrew Berends has been released from Nigerian government custody. Berends was interrogated for ten consecutive days after he and his translator, Samuel George, as well as a Nigerian businessman, were arrested in Port Harcourt in the south of Nigeria on August 31. The translator and the businessman have been temporarily released yesterday but are still scheduled to report back to the security services tomorrow.

“We are celebrating this great news with Andrew’s relatives and friends who demonstrated impressive and exceptional mobilization to achieve this outcome,” said the international press freedom organization. “Their collective efforts brought about the direct and determinative use of American diplomacy to secure Andrew’s release. Now that Andrew’s case is settled, we expect his translator and the businessman who was arrested at the same time to be freed unconditionally as soon as possible. We hope the Nigerian authorities have learned from this episode that it is absurd to arrest reporters in the Delta region and accuse them of spying when they are simply reporting, with permission, on economic and political situations in that country.”

After a last day at the headquarters of the State Security Service (SSS, domestic intelligence services) in the capital city of Abuja, Berends was handed over to representatives of the US embassy on Tuesday, September 9. On Monday, Samuel George and the Nigerian businessman were set free from the SSS offices in Port-Harcourt but were scheduled to report back to security officials again tomorrow, Wednesday September 10. They were told they would not be cleared before Andrew Berends’ case is settled.

Berends boarded a flight to Germany on September 9 in the evening after receiving a deportation order.

Today Senators Schumer, Clinton, Murray, Durbin, Cantwell, Leahy, Feingold, Casey, Brown and Kerry joined together to seek Andrew Berends’ immediate release in a letter to the Nigerian President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.