OTTAWA – 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 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.
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 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 that he was paid $10,000.
Ader took notes on a yellow legal pad in the prisoner’s box as Stewart testified Thursday.
Stewart told of how she flew to Nairobi, Kenya, to help arrange for release of her daughter and Brennan after many months of often distressing long-distance calls.
In a recording of a phone call with Ader played in court, Stewart demands to speak with the pair before any money is transferred to Somalia.
“We don’t even know if they’re alive,” says 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 $2.5 million US, but the families assembled less than $700,000 US 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 Ader was nervous, asking how he could trust the families to pay.
“How can we trust you?” Stewart shot back.
An initial attempt to pay the ransom did not work out, but a second effort succeeded.
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 his cross-examination of Stewart.
“You found yourself in a position you never thought you’d be in.”
Brown painted Stewart’s series of conversations as something of 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 actually playing.
Stewart acknowledged receiving a follow-up 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.”
Lindhout testified last week she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten while captive. She was moved frequently, spending time in about a dozen different places, often in filthy conditions. In one, rats were “crawling all over my body,” she told the court.
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