Alleged Amanda Lindhout kidnapper tries to explain inconsistencies, despite taped evidence

In the last day of testimony in the Amanda Lindhout kidnapping trial, the Crown poked holes in the story of the alleged main negotiator who handled many of the details of the ransom payment that led to the Canadian journalist's release.

Ali Omar Ader says he wasn't a negotiator, just a captive ordered to make ransom requests

Ali Omar Ader, a Somali national arrested by RCMP in Ottawa, is seen here in a courtroom sketch from June 12, 2015. (Greg Banning)

In the last day of testimony in the Amanda Lindhout kidnapping trial, the Crown poked holes in the story of the alleged negotiator who handled many of the details of the ransom payment that led to the Canadian journalist's release.

Ali Omar Ader, the Somali man lured to Canada by an undercover RCMP officer promising a book deal, told Ontario Superior Court in Ottawa on Wednesday that he himself was held captive by the extremist group that abducted Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The pair were held for 15 months before being freed by their kidnappers on Nov. 26, 2009.

Adar said that on the same day the pair were kidnapped, he was randomly picked off the street while on break from work and forced into service as a translator, facing torture from his captors along the way. He couldn't say how the captors knew he'd be able to speak conversational English, a rarity in the African country.

In his final submissions, one of Ader's lawyers, Trevor Brown, said it was entirely plausible Ader could be forced into service by a gang of armed bandits in a lawless country like Somalia.

"The same people who are willing and able to intercept another vehicle and take by force five civilians are the same kind of people who are eminently capable of walking into Bakara Market [in Mogadishu] and telling Mr. Ader to go with them. It's not like walking into the ByWard market, it is night and day," he said.

Under questioning from the Crown prosecutor, Croft Michaelson, Ader conceded he actually brought his wife and children to live with him during his supposed captivity.

During testimony on Tuesday, Ader had said he was kept at an apartment alone. It was only after hearing recorded conversations with an Australian hostage negotiator, where the cries of young children are clearly audible, that he said there were times his family were present at a place where he said he had been caned.

Ader also said he was free to leave the apartment building, and often went by himself for meals at local restaurants — despite earlier claims he was not allowed to leave voluntarily.

He still reported to work and did not make use of telephones or the internet there to ask for help, he said. He also didn't phone in a favour from Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a man he had long considered a friend, because he said Ahmed wouldn't be able to help him escape.

"The real situation in Somalia was such that even the president couldn't do anything for me," he testified.

He denied he was a willing participant — despite taped phone calls, and text messages that showed he made frequent demands for money from Lindhout's family, and clearly counted himself as part of the group responsible for the kidnapping by referring to "us" and "our group" — and said he was only doing as he was told.

Ader denied he knew Lindhout was repeatedly raped and tortured.

Ader's lawyer said he had to do as he was told because of the fear of further physical punishment.

"The people that we're dealing with are the type of people who threaten and carry out violence on people around them who don't do as they say," Brown said. "The people who held Ms. Lindhout and Mr. Brennan in captivity were exceptionally cruel and dangerous people ... you can't just walk away from this group."

Amanda Lindhout and her mother, Lorinda Stewart, have always been very close. They both say during the agonizing 460 days Lindhout was held captive in Somalia, they thought of each other to get through. (Lorinda Stewart)

Despite call logs to the contrary, Ader also denied he tried to sell Lindhout's letters, written while she was in captivity, to her mother for $20,000 after Lindhout was freed.

The calls to Lorinda Stewart were made from the same phone Ader used to call her during the ordeal. He said the phone was taken from him by his captors right after Lindhout was released on Nov. 25, 2009.

Threatening email

Ader said he escaped captivity on Jan. 1, 2009, during a time of unrest in Somalia as Ethiopian troops were advancing towards the capital of Mogadishu. He said he crept out of the apartment when hostage-takers were distracted.

But on Jan. 11 of the same year, a threatening email was sent from Ader's email account to Stewart demanding ransom money. "Danger is coming soon to Amanda if you don't pay ransom we want," he is accused of writing.

Ader said someone else must have used his account to send the request, even though it was signed with his name and used a salutation ("Hello Mom Lorinda") that he himself used on many occasions to address Lindhout's mother. He made such a claim despite his own testimony that few, if any, of the hostage-takers spoke English well enough to compose such a note.

(Ader said he later surrendered back to the group, after a brief period of freedom, because he said he was afraid the hostage-takers would harm his family.)

The Sylvan Lake Operational Centre where Lorinda Stewart took calls from the kidnappers. (John Lindhout)

In another incident, when Ader was making another request for ransom money, he said to Stewart that Lindhout must be her adopted daughter or she would have already met their demands. "I was ordered to say that," Ader told the court. "I'm ashamed of some of the things I said."

Alleged kidnapper says he lied to police

Ader also denied virtually all of what he told the RCMP officer posing as a book agent, despite his own assertion that the two became friends after years of correspondence.

Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Nov. 26, 2009, a day after they were freed by kidnappers who held them for 15 months. (Government of Somalia/Reuters)

In a secretly recorded sting video recorded during Ader's visit to Ottawa in 2015, he said he was paid $10,000 for his role in the Lindhout kidnapping as the "main negotiator." He said Wednesday that was a lie, and he only told the officer that because he thought it would make for a better book.

Michaelson, the Crown, said all of these inconsistences prove much of what Ader said in court has been fabricated.

"I suggest to you that none of your evidence in this court has been truthful. I suggest to you that you were the chief negotiator for the hostage-takers. You did the job voluntarily and received money. I suggest to you that you were never held captive. And I suggest to you that you were never beaten or shot," he said.

The Crown's submissions will be made Thursday. A ruling will be handed down in the judge-only trial at a later date.


John Paul Tasker

Senior writer

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.