Learning from practice. Interpreting at the 11M terrorist attack trial


  • Carmen Valero Garcés Universidad de Alcalá de Henares
  • Abderrahim Abkari Interpreter, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Madrid (Spain)


interpreting, terrorism, training


The large-scale trial for the March 11, 2004, Islamic terrorist attack in Spain (known as 11M) was the largest event ever organized by the justice system in that or any other European country in terms of its consequences and because of the effects the attack had on society both nationally and internationally: one hundred and ninety-two people died and more than one thousand were injured. The trial was complicated because of the vast number of defendants, witnesses, experts, and others who participated in the proceedings and also because of its uniqueness and the extraordinary significance it had. Our aim here is to highlight and analyze certain linguistic, cultural, and other extralinguistic difficulties (e.g. media influence, emotional aspects, technical difficulties) the translators and interpreters were faced with, as well as the solutions that were ultimately presented. First, as a means of introduction, legal considerations about the significance of the 11M trial will be made; secondly, a short explanation about the description of the corpus and methodology used will follow. Considerations concerning how the team of translators and interpreters was organized and the trial setting will then be made. An analysis of the complexities of interpreting at the 11M trial will be presented and, finally, conclusions regarding the repercussion this trial had—and still has—on the role interpreters play in Spain’s various administrative settings will be put forward.