OTTAWA – A man accused of holding Amanda Lindhout hostage in Somalia says he was threatened with death if he didn’t help the gang that seized her nine years ago.
Testifying Monday in Ontario Superior Court, Ali Omar Ader said he had no role in the plan to kidnap Lindhout, who was working as a journalist near Mogadishu in August 2008.
Under questioning from one of his lawyers, Ader told the court he was sitting in a market when he was suddenly approached by men who fired bullets near his feet and demanded he stand up.
“They told me if you don’t come with us you are going to die,” Ader told the court in the Somali language through a translator.
Ader said he was bundled into a vehicle and driven for more than an hour to a house outside the city where Lindhout, of Red Deer, Alta., and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were being held.
Ader, a 40-year-old Somalian national who speaks rudimentary English, has pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge of hostage-taking for his alleged role as a negotiator and translator.
Lindhout and Brennan were abducted by armed men while working on a story, the beginning of 15 months in captivity. Both were freed in November 2009 upon payment of a ransom.
The Crown has introduced a secretly recorded video of Ader telling two undercover RCMP officers he received US$10,000 for his role in the kidnapping.
In his testimony, Ader portrayed himself as a victim who was coerced into assisting three gang leaders and a bunch of gun-toting youths over several months through threats, a beating and an attack on his family.
Ader said the group made him question the hostages shortly after their capture, as well as place a call to Lindhout’s mother, Lorinda Stewart, in Canada.
Recordings played in court have shown Ader spoke with Stewart frequently in the ensuing months, telling her the group wanted no less than $2 million for the release of Lindhout and Brennan.
“I did not do it willingly, but there was no place to run to,” Ader told the court Monday.
“I had to make a call when I was ordered.”
Ader said he was beaten with a cane and fired at with a bullet that grazed his arm.
He managed “to escape” at one point, fleeing to his sister’s place and returning home to see his wife and children.
He told the court the abductors tried to take his son, stabbing his wife with a bayonet in the melee.
One of the gang leaders warned him “something worse than that would happen” if he did not follow orders, Ader said.
The Crown wrapped its arguments earlier in the day after playing the last portion of the surreptitiously recorded sting video.
An undercover Mountie posing as a media mogul dangled the prospect of a lucrative film documentary about the hostage-taking in order to elicit details from Ader.
The officer floats the idea with a proviso that Ader must divulge fresh information concerning the kidnapping.
The pitch comes toward the end of a lengthy June 2015 meeting at an Ottawa hotel in which Ader had already signed a contract to write a book about Somalia, part of an elaborate RCMP ruse to obtain a recorded confession.
During the book contract negotiations, captured on the secret video, Ader says he received $10,000 in ransom money.
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