Prosecution: Accused Lindhout kidnapper is lying to court about his role
Ali Omar Ader is shown in court in a 2015 artist's sketch. (Greg Banning/The Canadian Press)
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, October 18, 2017 2:17PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 18, 2017 6:09PM EDT
OTTAWA -- A Somalian man has lied repeatedly in court about his role in the kidnapping of Amanda Lindhout, a federal lawyer says.
Prosecutor Croft Michaelson contended Wednesday that Ali Omar Ader made up a story about being forced to work for the hostage-takers as a negotiator and translator, saying Ader was actually paid US$10,000 as a willing participant.
Lindhout was a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., when she and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were seized by a gang of armed men near Mogadishu in August 2008. Both were released in November 2009 upon payment of a ransom.
Ader, 40, was arrested in Ottawa in June 2015 after being lured to Canada by an undercover RCMP officer to sign a purported book-publishing contract. During the course of the scheme, Ader twice told the Mounties he agreed to help the kidnappers in exchange for money.
Ader has pleaded not guilty in Ontario Superior Court to a charge of hostage-taking.
He has told the court that he too was abducted by the gang of kidnappers, held captive, beaten and forced to make ransom-demand calls to Lindhout's mother, Lorinda Stewart.
Ader, the sole defence witness, said he escaped from the gang at one point, but surrendered when they assaulted his family and threatened further harm.
During cross-examination Wednesday, Michaelson pressed Ader about his testimony, trying to highlight inconsistencies.
"I suggest to you that none of your evidence in this court has been truthful," Michaelson said.
The Crown has introduced recordings of numerous calls Ader made, including one from October 2008 in which he speaks with an associate of the Brennan family. The voice of one of Ader's children can be heard in the background.
Michaelson asked how this could be, given that Ader was supposedly being held by the kidnappers in an apartment with no access to his family.
Ader said it was a period of great strife in Mogadishu, and his family had come to stay in the apartment where he was captive.
Michaelson called the reply "another untruth."
Ader said that once Lindhout and Brennan were released, the gang took away the mobile phone he used to make calls on its behalf.
In a 2010 recording introduced by the Crown, Ader leaves a message for Lindhout's mother from the same phone number he had used during the hostage-taking.
Michaelson asked Ader how he could have called Stewart, months after her daughter was released, using a mobile phone the gang had already taken from him.
Ader suggested the call in question was made much earlier, during the final phase of the kidnapping, when he still had the phone.
At that time, Stewart was in Nairobi, Kenya, helping arrange for payment of the ransom. Given this, Michaelson wondered why Ader would phone Stewart in Alberta.
"It's possible that I called by mistake," Ader said.
He insisted he had to do the gang's bidding and that he did not tell Stewart he was being held captive, like her daughter, because that would have put him at risk.
Trevor Brown, one of Ader's lawyers, said in his closing submissions Wednesday that Ader's testimony makes sense when one considers the gang members were "cruel, unpredictable and dangerous people" in a chaotic country.
"These are not the kind of people you just walk away from in a lawless state," Brown said.
Ader has acknowledged telling undercover RCMP officers on two occasions that he received US$10,000 in ransom money for his services to the kidnappers.
The first occasion was a meeting on the island of Mauritius with a Mountie he believed to be a business agent, helping to secure his book deal.
Ader told the court he never actually received any money from the gang, but lied to the man because he thought it was what he wanted to hear.
Brown said there is a body of legal evidence showing people will tend to exaggerate their involvement in events.
Justice Robert Smith suggested it would have been in Ader's interest to minimize his role, not the other way around.
The prosecution is expected to make final submissions Thursday, concluding the trial.