The man charged with holding Amanda Lindhout hostage in Somalia for 460 days has been found guilty, nearly nine years after the Canadian journalist was kidnapped.
Ali Omar Ader, a 40-year-old Somali national, was found guilty on one charge of hostage-taking for his role as a negotiator.
In a 24-page ruling, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith found Ader's defence — that he was forced to act as main negotiator and translator in the hostage-taking — was "completely unbelievable" and concocted, rejecting virtually all of the arguments by Ader's lawyers, Trevor Brown and Samir Adam.
The judgment took nearly three hours to read aloud owing to the time it took to simultaneously translate it into Ader's native tongue, Somali. Ader wiped away a couple of tears while seated in the prisoner's box as a packed courtroom looked on.
Grabbed in Mogadishu
Lindhout, a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were grabbed by masked gunmen near strife-ridden Mogadishu in August 2008. Lindhout was 28 at the time.
Lindhout and Brennan were released on Nov. 25, 2009.
During his testimony in the witness box in October, Ader said he himself was taken hostage by the same group that held Lindhout, and pushed into service as a Somali-English translator under duress.
Smith said there is little reason to believe much of what Ader said owing to a number of glaring inconsistences in the man's story, adding he believed the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Ader was not acting under duress but rather served as a ringleader who was party to Lindhout's captivity and resulting torture.
"He had many opportunities to contact the police as he was free to go when and where he pleased, and he had a safe avenue of escape," Smith said in his judgment.
The lead Crown prosecutor, Croft Michaelson, said he was pleased with Smith's ruling.
"I think that justice was well served today … Justice Smith, in a very lengthy decision, completely rejected Mr. Ader's story that he had acted under duress, so he's been convicted, it's been put over to early January to set a date for sentencing," he told reporters on the steps of the courthouse Wednesday.
Indeed, Ader never indicated he was held against his will in a series of phone calls and emails with Lindhout's mother, Lorinda Stewart, who negotiated ransom with Ader over the 15-month period her daughter was held captive.
"I find that the accused's evidence that the hostage-takers threatened to kill or cause bodily harm to him or to members of his family was unbelievable," said the judge.
The Crown's case was built largely on a series of covertly recorded conversations Ader had with an undercover RCMP officer who was posing as a book agent. Over years of correspondence, and a face-to-face meeting on the African island of Mauritius, Ader told the police officer, who can only be identified as A.K., that he volunteered to work as the "main negotiator."
Ader flew to Canada in 2015, lured by the pretense of a phoney book deal, and the RCMP arrested him in Ottawa.
He twice told the undercover officer he received $10,000 US in ransom money.
Praise for mother
Ader later testified that he lied because he wanted to become an author and move to Canada.
The judge said Ader's contention that he lied about receiving a payment for his role to make the book more salacious simply "made no sense," as it would have been in his best interest to downplay his role to avoid potential criminal prosecution.
Ader said he told the undercover officer "what we wanted to hear" — something the judge also batted away as nonsensical, noting he would have been a more sympathetic character if he recounted tales of his own time in supposed captivity.
In the recorded sting video, Ader acknowledged being paid for helping the shadowy group of armed kidnappers.
Under cross-examination, Ader conceded he wasn't much of prisoner as he was able to leave the apartment he shared with his supposed captors, dining at restaurants, and working as a travel agent outside the home.
The Crown dismissed much of what the man said in court as "flagrant lies," concocted in an attempt to diminish his real involvement in the kidnapping.
Lindhout testified that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten while being held captive.
"Basically they saw me as a piece of property that they owned," she told the court in October.
Before reading his decision, Smith praised Lindhout for her courage and strength while held in "deplorable conditions and subjected to extreme physical, sexual and emotional abuse."
But he reserved perhaps his most effusive praise for her mother, Stewart, who he said did a "superlative job" acting as a negotiator trying to secure her daughter's release.
"She treated the accused [Ader] so well during the negotiations that he began to believe she was his friend and referred to her as 'Mum Lorinda.' She played a very important role in keeping Amanda alive in extremely difficult circumstances."