Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Faulty translation may lead to Dubai prison term

AFP , OTTAWA

A Canadian anti-narcotics official facing drug charges in Dubai fears he may be jailed for up to four years because of poor translating, according to Canadian media.

In a letter addressed "to whom it may concern" and printed in the Ottawa Citizen, Bert Tatham, 35, alleges that his testimony was not translated properly at his trial.

And he now fears he will be wrongly convicted for drug possession and drug-trafficking.

"I was not confident that those who took down my answers were fluent English speakers," he writes. "In fact, despite my protests, I suspect that virtually the opposite of what I told them was recorded as my statement."

The letter also describes a possible misunderstanding he believes occurred during an interrogation at the Dubai airport.

"For example, my telling them about being exposed to drugs in my work ... became, `I used drugs in Afghanistan,'" he writes.

"My lack of any knowledge of having hashish ... became, `I forgot I put it in my pocket,'" he writes.

Tatham was arrested at the Dubai airport on April 23 during a stopover from Afghanistan to Canada when customs officials found two poppy flowers in his luggage.

After a more thorough search, authorities reportedly found 0.6 grams of hashish in his clothes and traces of drugs in his urine.

Tatham insists in his letter that he handled drugs regularly in Afghanistan as part of his role as a counter-narcotics official, working alongside, but not connected to, 2,500 Canadian troops in southern Kandahar province.

"Drugs was a major occupational hazard," he writes.

"I handled hashish and other substances regularly in Afghanistan as part of my role as a counter-narcotics official," he said in the letter.

He also suggests he may have unknowingly ingested narcotics in local foods or inhaled "fumes" while burning seized drugs.

Rodney Moore, a spokesman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Department, said Canadian officials have been in contact with Tatham and his family.

They would not comment on his case, citing Canadian privacy laws.

The Toronto-based daily National Post said Tatham had worked several years in Afghanistan for the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, but more recently became a contractor with the US State Department.

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