KIDNAPPED Queensland photographer Nigel Brennan has been hailed as a hero by a judge for refusing to leave a female colleague captive in war-torn Somalia even though his family had raised his ransom.
Mr Brennan's bravery was revealed yesterday as one of the gang who held him and Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout hostage for 15 months was convicted.
The 45-year-old said it was kind of Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith to describe him as "heroic'', but abandoning Ms Lindhout was never an option.
"There is no way I was going to leave her behind,'' he said.
The offer came eight months into their ordeal, when the kidnappers told Mr Brennan to ring his parents, Geoff and Heather, in Bundaberg and tell them to pay whatever they had and he would be released. No money had been offered for Ms Lindhout at that stage.
"I said I wasn't willing to leave without Amanda and I didn't think my parents would pay to get just me out.
"One of the older guys pointed his pistol at my face and said: 'Ring them!'
Mr Brennan made the call but refused to leave. "They could potentially have killed Amanda. How could you live with yourself after that?" he said yesterday.
The pair were eventually freed seven months later after the two families paid a combined $700,000 ransom with the help of businessman Dick Smith and former Greens leader Bob Brown.
They had been seized at gunpoint while on assignment outside the Somali capital Mogadishu. During their 460-day ordeal, both were chained, starved and beaten and Ms Lindhout, now 37, was tortured and sexually assaulted.
Ali Omar Ader, 40, pleaded not guilty to hostage-taking. But the court heard that he was the main ransom negotiator and was later secretly filmed telling undercover police officers that he was "the brains" of the operation.
He was lured to Canada in an elaborate ruse by Mounties officers posing as literary agents interested in publishing a book Ader was planning.
Ader's defence argued that his role in the kidnapping was done under duress, fearing for his own life. But Justice Smith yesterday described his evidence as "unbelievable".
After the verdict, Mr Brennan said: "I don't hold anger towards him, or hatred. The only person that would hurt is me. I've done a lot of healing.
"I also understand that the kidnappers come from a very unfortunate country which, for the last 27 years, has been pretty much in anarchy."
Mr Brennan, who now lives in Tasmania with his partner Alanna and their 21-month-old son Rumi, said he had forgiven Ader but he would learn at sentencing that all actions have consequences.
A sentencing date will be set next month.
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