Terrore, Traduttore, Traditore: 'ISIS linguist' charged with translation crime
In Italian, one expression goes traduttore, traditore -- translator, traitor. Like any human activity, translation, writing and editing are never neutral acts, and are deeply influenced by politics, ideology and power systems as linguists have long contended.
Apart from simple subjective human interference, it has been argued that this is also a result of globalisation and its implications for the presentation of discordant narratives on anything, from local politics to conflict and terrorism.
Translation in recent years has come to be seen as being profoundly embedded and "fulfilling a key intervention in mediating conflict", according to Esperanza Bielsa, a linguist who has studied the implications of globalisation for the translation profession.
Translators and interpreters played a key role in US-led wars in Iraq. Post 9/11, the various and often very different versions of Bin Laden speeches in English were "an expression of translation's role in promoting and legitimating particular narratives," says Bielsa.
Translators have also been used extensively by Western intelligence services for various tasks, including helping extract confessions from terror suspects, possibly under torture.
They have also been jailed for political reasons, and recently, for "aiding terrorists".
On Friday, federal German prosecutors charged an 18-year-old with supporting a terrorist organisation by "translating Islamic State propaganda and correcting errors in texts the group posted online."
Mikail S., a German citizen whose last name wasn't disclosed in line with privacy laws, faced nine counts of supporting IS on allegations he'd been in contact with the extremist organisation's propaganda operations since mid-2016.
S. is alleged to have contacted the group, offering to "translate English, German and Turkish texts and correct linguistic errors" according to AP newswire reports.
After being taken up on his offer, he delivered over the period of about a month beginning at the start of June one translation and eight corrected texts which ended up on the internet.
Karim Traboulsi is a writer and translator for The New Arab. Follow him on Twitter: @kareemios