Lindhout’s mother says alleged kidnapper feared double-cross
Amanda Lindhout’s mother says one of her daughter’s alleged Somalian abductors feared “he was being set up” for a double-cross as arrangements for a ransom payment were being finalized.
Lorinda Stewart told an Ontario court Thursday that talks with Ali Omar Ader in early November, 2009, did not go well because Mr. Ader suddenly became “angry and afraid.”
Ms. Lindhout was a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., when she and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were grabbed by masked men near Mogadishu in August, 2008, while working on a story. Both were released in late November, 2009.
Mr. Ader, 40, has pleaded not guilty in Ontario Superior Court to a criminal charge of hostage- taking for his alleged role.
He was arrested by the RCMP in Ottawa in June, 2015. It emerged during pretrial motions last spring that the Mounties had lured Mr. Ader to Canada through an elaborate scheme to sign a purported book-publishing deal.
The Crown says Mr. Ader admitted to undercover investigators on two occasions that he was the negotiator in the kidnapping and that he was paid $10,000.
Mr. Ader took notes on a yellow legal pad in the prisoner’s box as Ms. Stewart testified Thursday.
Ms. Stewart told of how she flew to Nairobi to help arrange for release of her daughter and Mr. Brennan after many months of often distressing long-distance calls.
In a recording of a phone call with Mr. Ader played in court, Ms. Stewart demands to speak with the pair before any money is transferred to Somalia.
“We don’t even know if they’re alive,” says Ms. Stewart, who was joined on the call by Mr. Brennan’s sister.
At one point, the captors were demanding $2.5-million (U.S.), but the families assembled less than $700,000 after months of desperately trying to raise funds.
The plan was to electronically transfer the ransom funds from Sydney, Australia, to Mogadishu through a money-transfer service.
The phone recording indicates Mr. Ader was nervous, asking how he could trust the families to pay.
“How can we trust you?” Ms. Stewart shot back.
An initial attempt to pay the ransom did not work out, but a second effort succeeded.
During the 15-month ordeal, Ms. Stewart was thrust into the role of negotiator, sometimes taking calls from Mr. Ader in the middle of the night because of the time difference.
Trevor Brown, an Ottawa-based lawyer for Mr. Ader, called the circumstances “surreal” during his cross-examination of Ms. Stewart.
“You found yourself in a position you never thought you’d be in.”
Mr. Brown painted Ms. Stewart’s series of conversations as something of a confusing web due to Mr. Ader’s heavy accent and limited English, the difficulty of hearing properly on overseas phone links and the fact that people working at the request of Mr. Brennan’s family were also in touch with Mr. Ader.