Guilty verdict in Lindhout kidnapping case
‘Willing participant’ in kidnapping
• Ali Omar Ader, a 40-year-old Somali national, has been found guilty in the kidnapping of Amanda Lindhout in Somalia.
The verdict was handed down in a packed courtroom Wednesday by Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith, who presided over Ader’s 10-day trial.
In his lengthy reasons for the decision, Smith said Ader was a “willing participant” in the hostage-taking.
Smith found much of Ader’s testimony was unbelievable and did not support his claim that he was forced into serving as a negotiator and translator on behalf of a gang who threatened to harm him and his family.
Ader betrayed little emotion as the verdict was announced.
Lindhout was a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., when she and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were seized by armed men near Mogadishu in August 2008, the beginning of 15 months in captivity. They were released upon payment of a ransom.
But the saga then entered a new phase: a complex, multi-year police investigation involving a scheme to elicit a confession from Ader, the man suspected of making ransom-demand calls.
Ader, who speaks some English, developed a business relationship through phone calls and emails with a man who promised to help publish his book about Somalia.
They met face-to-face in 2013 on the island of Mauritius, where the business agent — actually an undercover Mountie — says Ader freely spoke of helping the hostage-takers in return for US$10,000 in ransom money.
A book contract signing came two years later in Ottawa with the officer and a supposed publisher, all secretly captured on a police video. Again, Ader tells the RCMP he was paid to assist the kidnappers. He was arrested the next day.
As the lone defence witness, Ader told the court that he, too, was abducted by the gang and forced to be a negotiator and interpreter.
Ader described being held by the gunmen in an apartment for several months, as well as getting orders from the gang about what to say during calls to Lindhout’s mother, Lorinda Stewart. He told of being beaten, escaping and later surrendering when the hostage-takers made serious threats against his family.
Ader said in Mauritius, he tried to tell the man he believed to be his business agent that he was coerced into helping the kidnappers. But the man wasn’t interested, so he told him what he wanted to hear.
Prosecutor Croft Michaelson said Ader’s testimony was “riddled with inconsistencies” and should be rejected.
Ader told the true story of his role in the kidnapping in Mauritius, not in the courtroom, Michaelson said. The prosecutor suggested it simply wouldn’t make sense for Ader to confess to something he did not do.
Trevor Brown, one of Ader’s lawyers, said it was important to remember the Somalia of 2009 was a chaotic country with no sense of order or security, a place where those with weapons wielded power.
The gang members who kidnapped Lindhout and Brennan were cruel and unpredictable people “eminently capable” of ordering Ader to help them, Brown told the court.
In the judgment Wednesday, Smith noted that Ader never mentioned in emails or phone calls that he or his family had been threatened if he did not help the hostage-takers, a claim that only surfaced during the trial.
“If he had assisted the hostage-takers due to threats, this would have reduced his culpability for the hostage-taking and assisted him in obtaining the book contract,” Smith said.
“It does not make sense to lie about his involvement to make his conduct appear worse to the publisher and the public who he hoped would buy his book.”
Lindhout did not respond to a request for comment.
She testified that she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten while held captive. She was also moved about a dozen different times. She said she knew Ader as “Adam,” who was introduced as “the commander.”
She said he told her Allah had put it into his heart to ask for ransom for her and Brennan.
She replied that her mother was earning minimum wage at a bakery and her father was on long-term disability. She said she told her captors that they might as well kill her.
Lindhout said Adam asked her: “Are you ready to die?”
Ali Omar Ader is shown in court in an artist’s sketch. The Somali national has been found guilty in the kidnapping of Amanda Lindhout in August 2008.