An emotional Amanda Lindhout recounted the horrors of being kidnapped at gunpoint in Somalia as the trial of one of her alleged hostage-takers got underway.
Lindhout sobbed Thursday upon approaching the witness box to describe her abduction by a gang of armed men in masks nine years ago, the beginning of what she called 460 days of hell.
Lindhout, a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were seized near Mogadishu in August 2008 while working on a story. Both were released in November 2009 in exchange for a ransom payment.
Ali Omar Ader, a 40-year-old Somalian national, has pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge of hostage-taking for his alleged role as a negotiator.
He was arrested by the RCMP in Ottawa in June 2015. It emerged during pre-trial motions last spring that the Mounties had lured Ader to Canada through an elaborate scheme to sign a purported book-publishing deal.
The Crown says Ader admitted to undercover investigators on two occasions that he was the negotiator in the kidnapping and that he was paid $10,000.
Ader sat in the prisoner’s box just metres away from Lindhout as she struggled to gain her composure with the help of a support person who sat beside her during the proceedings.
The Crown alleges Ader was known to the hostages as “Adam” and took part in several telephone calls with Lindhout’s mother to demand payment for her daughter’s release.
Lindhout, 36, told of being introduced to Adam, who was also called “the commander.”
He said Allah had put it into his heart to ask for a ransom for the two journalists, Lindhout told the court.
Her mother was earning minimum wage working at a bakery, and her father was on long-term disability, prompting Lindhout to tell her captors they might as well kill her now.
Lindhout said Adam asked her: “Are you ready to die?”
Lindhout testified she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten while captive. She was moved frequently, spending time in 13 different places, often in filthy conditions. At one point, rats were “crawling all over my body,” she told the court.
In 2009, Lindhout established The Global Enrichment Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering leadership in Somalia through educational and community-based programs.
Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press