Saturday October 7, 2017
By the first time it happened, the pair had been
separated and kept in separate rooms. What he heard that night, Nigel
Brennan said, was Lindhout crying, ‘No! No! No!’
His face reddening, eyes filling, he told Judge Robert Smith, “Obviously, I was very concerned for her. I knew she was being tortured.”
Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan, who was kidnapped with Canadian Amanda Lindhout, speaks outside an Ottawa courthouse after testifying at the trial of one of the alleged kidnappers on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
OTTAWA — Nigel Brennan, the Australian photographer abducted in Somalia with Canadian freelance reporter Amanda Lindhout, wept Friday as he told an Ontario Superior Court judge how he twice had to listen to Lindhout screaming as she was tortured or raped.
“Four of the young gunmen came in one night,” he said of the first occasion. One of them told him, “Whatever you hear, do not open your door.”
By this point in the pair’s 15-month-long captivity — they were eventually released in November of 2009 after their families paid a ransom of about $600,000 — they had been separated and were being kept in separate rooms.
What he heard that night, Brennan said, was Lindhout crying, “No! No! No!”
The second time, he said, it was in a different house (they were moved in frightening midnight rides across the war-torn country to a dozen different places).
Again, Brennan could hear his friend’s agony: First, her cries of “No,” then the metal plate in her room sliding, then, for an hour to 90 minutes, Brennan said, “She was screaming.”
Brennan was testifying at the hostage-taking trial of Ali Omar Ader, the 40-year-old Somalian who was lured to Canada by an RCMP officer pretending to be a book agent.
Ader, who is pleading not guilty, is not alleged to have been one of those who physically or sexually assaulted Linkhout.
According to prosecutors, and both Lindhout’s and Brennan’s evidence, he was the group’s negotiator, the “comms” man who made the ransom calls back to Lindhout’s parents in Canada and Brennan’s family in Australia.
Thus, prosecutor Croft Michaelson told the judge in his brief overview of the case this week, Ader is guilty of being what’s called a “party” to the hostage-taking, in that he aided or abetted those who abducted the pair.
When Brennan awoke the next morning after the second incident, he said, it was “to her (Lindhout’s) screaming,” and when he dozed off that night, and woke the next day, it was again to the terrible sounds of her crying in pain.
Matching Brennan’s testimony to what Lindhout described in her 2013 best-selling book about their ordeal, A House in the Sky, it appears that the first time Brennan heard her crying, it may have been when she was gang-raped for the first time (though this was hardly the first time she was raped by one of her captors), and that the second time was in Kismayo, a port city in the south of the country.
It was there where Lindhout, already kept in the dark in chains and confined to a thin mat, was suddenly and without explanation hogtied wrist to ankle, arms pulled tight behind her back, blindfolded, and with a sock in her mouth as a gag, left for what she believed was about three days.
This bout of torture within the captivity ended as suddenly as it began, when she was dragged to a phone on speaker and could hear her mother’s voice.
Afterwards, she wrote, she was preparing to die, planning to use her rusty razor to slash her wrists.
What stopped her was the sight, in a sliver of early morning sunlight that had briefly lit a square of her dark room, of a small brown bird.
It was the first bird she’d seen in almost a year, she wrote, and she deemed it a sign that she should fight on.
Brennan told the judge that in the second incident, Lindhout’s cries had stopped only when “she was put on the phone to her mother.”
He was five metres away from her, he said, but it might as well have been a million miles.
As he told Samir Adam, one of Ader’s lawyers in cross-examination, he and Lindhout were always surrounded by the armed men, living at best a punitive existence that was filled with violence and threats of violence.
Amanda Lindhout and fellow hostage Nigel Brennan after their release in November 2009. AFP/Getty Images
On their infrequent calls home, they were given scripts to read, and there were guns pointed at them.
After their release, Brennan described Adam, as he and Lindhout knew Ader, to a T in interviews with police — a tall man, with unusually small ears Brennan said he thought of as “apricot ears” — and as he pointed him out in the prisoner’s box, the tall man with apricot ears was without expression.
As Lindhout testified earlier this week, Brennan said Adam/Ader’s role was largely as the voice he heard on the phone saying, “Mr. Nigel, I put you through to” his sister or another family member.
But he resisted the defence lawyer’s effort to paint him as unthreatening.
“In the first few days, I wouldn’t have said that,” Brennan said. “He was the one who was threatening, making ransom demands and threatening our lives.”
The two converted to Islam in their captivity because, as Brennan said once, “I was trying to get them to see me as a human being. … I hoped it would make it more difficult for them to kill me.”
Now 45, Brennan, his wife and their little boy live in Australia, where he works as a critical incident responder.
The trial continues next week.