Fate of alleged Amanda Lindhout kidnapper now lies with judge as trial wraps

After weeks of emotional testimony, the fate of a man charged with holding Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout hostage is in the hands of an Ontario Superior Court judge.

Crown attorney says much of what Ali Omar Ader said in witness box is 'flagrant lies'

Ali Omar Ader, a Somali national arrested by RCMP in Ottawa on June 11, is seen here in a courtroom sketch on Friday, June 12, 2015. (Greg Banning)

After weeks of emotional testimony, the fate of a man charged with holding Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout hostage is in the hands of an Ontario Superior Court judge.

In a withering final submission, Crown prosecutor Croft Michaelson told Justice Robert Smith the Somali man accused of being the main negotiator should be convicted of hostage-taking for the role he played in holding the Red Deer, Alta., native captive while she was subjected to rape and torture for 460 days.

Ali Omar Ader, lured to Canada under the phoney promise of a book deal, said he did not voluntarily act as a ransom negotiator, but rather was pressed into service at gunpoint as a translator and subsequently held captive. Ader said that on the same day Lindhout and Australia photojournalist Nigel Brennan were kidnapped, he was randomly picked off the street while on break from work.

The Crown dismissed much of what the man said in the witness box this week as "flagrant lies," concocted in an attempt to diminish his real involvement in the kidnapping.

Under cross-examination, Ader was forced to concede 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.

Amanda Lindhout. (Handout/Canadian Press)

He also said he brought his wife and children to live with him while in captivity, at a place where he was supposedly brutalized. Ader made that admission only after a recorded conversation was played for the court where the cries of his young children were clearly audible as he discussed payment with an Australian hostage negotiator.

"The testimony that he was taken captive and compelled to act should be rejected," Michaelson told the court, "because his testimony was riddled with inconsistencies, and contradicted by other evidence in the case."

Justice Smith is expected to render a final decision in the new year.

Chilling call

In a chilling call recounted in court, Ader warned Lindhout's mother, Lorinda Stewart, that she should send a $2-million payment to "our group" or there could be hell to pay. Stewart accused Ader of playing games during — what had been to that point — a nearly year-long negotiation.

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)

"If I am playing a game, you should see my game, you should see how my game is," he responded.

Days later, Lindhout was given the rare chance to call her mother and she told her of the punishing physical torture she had just faced.

Ader denies physically harming Lindhout. Ader's defence attorney, Trevor Brown, said the judge should not draw any conclusions about the timing of the call and the start date of the torture.

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 a negotiator.

He was accepted by Lindhout's hostage takers — extremists with ties to the group Hizbul Islam — because of his experience as a communications officer with the Islamic Courts Union, he told the officer. He said he worked with the group so that he could get a cut of any subsequent ransom payment. He later said, in a recorded conversation, that he was paid $10,000 for his role, a figure he thought was far too low for year-long involvement.

Ader later said in court he simply exaggerated his story so as to make his book more salacious, something Michaelson called "patent fiction." Ader maintains he was not paid.

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

"There was nothing to be gained for exaggerating his involvement in the hostage taking," he said.

Ader's own attorney said there were "various points" in the cross-examination where "Mr. Ader appeared to contradict himself or his evidence given in court over the past few days."

The Crown produced evidence that showed Ader then tried to sell letters Lindhout had written in captivity, to her mother, for some $20,000 after her daughter had been freed. The calls and text messages originated from the same number Ader used to call Stewart during the 400-day ordeal.

While Ader maintains he did not want to serve the extremists holding Lindhout captive, the Crown produced a series of transcripts from recorded calls in which Ader references "our group," "we," and passages where he refers himself to himself as "the main negotiator" for the crew of gun-wielding captors. He calls another one of the captors his "friend."

Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan recover in the Somali capital of Mogadishu a day after they were freed from kidnappers who held them for 15 months. (Government of Somalia/Reuters)

In one call, with a Somali-Canadian man the Lindhout family used to speak to Ader on occasion, Ader painted himself as a leader among the extremists.

"They always listen to me … sometimes I yell at them, and tell them to give me time to negotiate and reach an agreement," he said. "Earlier tonight I called and screamed at them. They have told me I have no right to scream when I don't have ransom money or an arrangement."

Michaelson said such behaviour is not consistent with a man supposedly held hostage and fearful for his life.

About the Author

John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.