Translation Error Cited In Sting Case
Thread poster: Abdellatif Bouhid

Abdellatif Bouhid  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:41
English to French
+ ...
Aug 18, 2004

Not really the light side of translation since a man's freedom may hang on one incorrectly translated word.

Washington Post
Associated Press
Wednesday, August 18, 2004; Page A06
ALBANY, N.Y., Aug. 17 -- Federal prosecutors acknowledged a possible translation error in a key piece of evidence used to arrest and detain a mosque leader accused of supporting terrorism.
Yassin Muhiddin Aref is charged with aiding a government informant in a sting operation involving a fake plot to buy a shoulder-fired missile to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat.
The translation discrepancy stems from a notebook that the FBI said was found in a terrorist camp in northern Iraq in summer 2003. The indictment said an Arabic entry referred to Aref as a "commander" and listed his former address and phone number in Albany.
But FBI translators who have a copy of the original entry say the phrase means "brother," prosecutors told the judge in a letter.
Aref is the imam of the Masjid as-Salam mosque in Albany. Also charged earlier this month in the sting operation was Mohammed Mosharref Hossain, 49, one of the mosque's founders. They face 70 years in prison if convicted.
Defense attorneys say that the translation error undermines the entire government case, and that both men should be released on bail. U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby said that authorities are unsure which translation is correct but that it does not change the case.


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Vladimir Dubisskiy  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:41
Member (2001)
English to Russian
+ ...
it is not quite clear whether he helped or not... Aug 18, 2004

Abdellatif Bouhid wrote:
Federal prosecutors acknowledged a possible translation error...
...is charged with aiding a government informant in a sting operation involving a fake plot to buy a shoulder-fired missile...



The price of human errors can be really huge and innocent people may suffer.
However for the case I don't think the translation error is a crucial point (that's probably why the verdict was not changed) - i mean if someone was caught helping to acquire the missile it does not really matter how this person was addressed 'commander','brother', 'friend', 'Mr.', etc.


[Edited at 2004-08-18 20:20]

[Edited at 2004-08-18 20:21]


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sylver  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:41
English to French
The difference... Aug 20, 2004

Vladimir Dubisskiy wrote:

Abdellatif Bouhid wrote:
Federal prosecutors acknowledged a possible translation error...
...is charged with aiding a government informant in a sting operation involving a fake plot to buy a shoulder-fired missile...



The price of human errors can be really huge and innocent people may suffer.
However for the case I don't think the translation error is a crucial point (that's probably why the verdict was not changed) - i mean if someone was caught helping to acquire the missile it does not really matter how this person was addressed 'commander','brother', 'friend', 'Mr.', etc.


Well, it does matter how the person was addressed, *if* the case is simply based on that one misunderstanding. Let say a proven terrorist address you a letter calling you "commander", that implies you have something to do with the guy's affair, right? That's a confession that you are his boss.

If he addresses you as "brother" or "sir", the implication is quite different.

Of course, if there are other evidences you have actually participated in the terrorist act, the mistranslation is irrelevant, but if the mistranslation is the *only* "evidence" that you had something to do with it...


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Translation Error Cited In Sting Case

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