Guilty ver­dict in Lind­hout kid­nap­ping case

‘Will­ing par­tic­i­pant’ in kid­nap­ping

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - JIM BRONSKILL

• 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?”

GREG BAN­NING / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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.

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