Lindhout’s alleged kidnapper feared setup, court hears
TTAWA — 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 on Thursday that talks with Ali Omar Ader in early November 2009 did not go well because Ader suddenly became “angry and afraid.”
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.
OAder, 40, has pleaded not guilty in Ontario Superior Court to hostage-taking. He was arrested by the RCMP in Ottawa in June 2015. It emerged during pre-trial motions last spring that the Mounties had lured Ader to Canada through an elaborate scheme to sign a purported book-publishing deal.
The Crown says Ader admitted to undercover investigators on two occasions that he was the negotiator in the kidnapping and was paid $10,000.
Ader took notes on a yellow legal pad in the prisoner’s box as Stewart testified on Thursday.
Stewart said she flew to Nairobi, Kenya, to help arrange for release of her daughter and Brennan after many months of distressing long-distance calls.
In a recording of a phone call with Ader played in court, Stewart demanded to speak with the pair before any money was transferred to Somalia.
“We don’t even know if they’re alive,” said Stewart, who was joined on the call by Brennan’s sister.
“The money will not be in your hands until we speak to Amanda and Nigel.
“If you let us speak to them tonight, you will have it tomorrow morning.”
At one point, the captors were demanding US$2.5 million, but the families assembled less than US$700,000 after months of trying to raise funds.
The plan was to electronically transfer the ransom funds from Sydney, Australia, to Mogadishu through a moneytransfer service.
The phone recording indicates Ader was nervous, asking how he could trust the families to pay.
“How can we trust you?” Stewart said. An initial attempt to pay the ransom did not work out, but a second effort was successful.
During the 15-month ordeal, Stewart was thrust into the role of negotiator, sometimes taking calls from Ader in the middle of the night due to the time difference.
Trevor Brown, an Ottawa-based lawyer for Ader, called the circumstances “surreal” during cross-examination.
“You found yourself in a position you never thought you’d be in,” he said.
Brown painted Stewart’s series of conversations as a confusing web due to 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 Brennan’s family were also in touch with Ader.
Brown suggested it was impossible to know what role Ader was playing.
Stewart acknowledged receiving a followup phone message from Ader in January 2010, as well as later contact through Facebook.
Ader said he wanted to help Lindhout, apologized to Stewart for speaking badly to her and claimed he was “playing two sides” in the negotiations in order to save her daughter, Brown told the court.
Stewart said she didn’t necessarily believe Ader: “I didn’t trust him.”