The trial of foreigners implicated in the Sh1.3 billion heroin seized in the Indian Ocean in 2014 will continue despite concerns over a language barrier.
This is after the High Court in Mombasa yesterday declined to review the case and provide an additional interpreter for Iranian national Pak Abdolghaffer, who protested that he does not understand the Urdu language used in the trial.
Justice Anne Ong’injo said the language issue should have been raised at the initial stages, before the first prosecution witness testified, but not at the tail end of the trial.
Having gone through the trial with an interpreter in the Urdu language, she said, Mr Abdolghaffer’s request for a Parsi interpreter was not made in good faith.
“It cannot be true that almost seven years down the line, the Iranian national now claims that he does not understand the Urdu language,” the judge said.
Seeking to stop the trial, he told the judge that although he speaks Farsi and Persian, the Magistrate Court brushed aside his request for an interpreter of the two languages.
“This has infringed on my right to a fair trial. This has resulted in numerous omissions that have left me at a glaring disadvantage,” he said through Ms Jacqueline Waihenya.
He said he does not understand Hindi, Urdhu or Arabic, which have been used in interpreting court proceedings, an issue he said he had raised several times.
But the state, through Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Alexander Muteti, objected to the application, saying it was not true that the Iranian understands only Persian as he had been communicating with his advocates in English.
Mr Muteti argued that the demand for a Farsi interpreter was being used as a tactic to further delay the case.
“When his statement was being taken at the Port Police Station, the interpreter went there and he (interpreted) from English to Urdu. The Iranian spoke in Urdu very fluently,” Mr Muteti said
Mr Abdolghaffer is accused jointly with 10 others of trafficking by transporting on the ship Amin Darya, also known as Al Noor, 377.2kg of creamish granular heroin, 33,200 litres of liquid heroin, and 2,400 litres of diesel mixed with heroin.
The state claims that the suspects committed the offense between July 2 and 18, 2014 at Berth 8 of the Kilindini port in Mombasa County.
Other suspects are Mombasa politician Maur Bwanamaka, Yousuf Yaqoob, Yakoob Ibrahim, Saleem Muhammad, Bhatti Abdul Ghafour, Baksh Moula, Muhammed Saleh, Mohamed Osman Ahmed, and Khalid Agil.
The government of Pakistan has raised concerns over delays in prosecuting her six citizens in the case and it wants the case concluded.