A tearful Amanda Lindhout says she has crippling flashbacks and sometimes wakes up screaming due to her kidnapping ordeal in Somalia.
At a sentencing hearing Wednesday for hostage-taker Ali Omar Ader, Lindhout said the sexual assault, beatings and emotional trauma she suffered in captivity filled her with pain and self-loathing.
“I was a young woman wanting to rebuild my life,” Lindhout told a hushed courtroom. “But the abuse had made me hate myself.”
Ader, a 40-year-old Somalian national, faces up to life in prison after being convicted of hostage-taking late last year.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith ruled that Ader was a “willing participant” in the 2008 kidnapping of Lindhout, who was working as a freelance journalist near Mogadishu at the time.
The judge found little to believe in Ader’s testimony, saying it did not support his claim that he was forced into serving as a negotiator and translator on behalf of a gang who threatened to harm him and his family.
Lindhout, raised in Red Deer, Alta., and photographer Nigel Brennan of Australia were snatched by armed men while pursuing a story, the beginning of 15 months as hostages.
Years after their release, the RCMP lured Ader to Canada on the pretext of signing a lucrative book-publishing deal, leading to his arrest in Ottawa in June 2015.
Lindhout said her brutal confinement left her with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, the inability to sustain friendships, insomnia, nightmares, digestive problems and broken teeth.
“For years after my release I couldn’t really believe I was free.”
Lindhout said she wished good things for Brennan as well as Ader’s wife and five children in Somalia.
Brennan also read a victim impact statement, saying he too has suffered from post-traumatic stress, panic attacks and nightmares. Being forced to hear Lindhout’s screams from torture in an adjoining room is “a memory that will mentally stay with me for the rest of my life,” he said.
Brennan said his friendship with Lindhout had deteriorated as a result of the horrendous events, and that they had not spoken in almost seven years.
Still, Brennan said he no longer had hatred in his heart toward Ader and does not want him to spend his life behind bars. He stressed the importance of forgiveness and urged the judge to “show leniency.”
Samir Adam, one of Ader’s lawyers, said a sentence of between 10 to 12 years in prison would be appropriate.
Ader read a statement in which he expressed remorse, saying he was human and therefore flawed.
“I am sorry, I apologize and ask you for forgiveness,” he said, requesting freedom so he could care for his family in Somalia.
Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press