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Lawyers Claim Incompetent Interpreters Undermine Gitmo Proceedings

Posted Oct 14, 2008 7:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Defense lawyers for Guantanamo detainees say their trials are being undermined by incompetent interpreters.

One defendant, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, wanted to discuss the possibility of representing himself in one pretrial hearing, the Washington Post reports in an article on the problems. But his words were often mistranslated and “incomprehensible,” his lawyers said in a draft document. They are seeking an Arabic transcript of the hearing.

The Post offered this sentence as an example of a translation of Hawsawi’s words that didn’t make sense: "In the beginning of the timing of the laws, I said there is no difficulties base."

In a different hearing at Guantanamo, a judge removed an interpreter who repeatedly interpreted the words “Osama bin Laden’s driver” as “Osama bin Laden’s lawyer.”

Military prosecutors are resisting the motion for an Arabic translation, but they say they are beefing up their quality control system in response to complaints, the story says. Despite the problems with their work, some Guantanamo interpreters can earn up to $150,000 a year.

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