Pro-government media in Hungary have made prominent use in recent months of interviews with an asylum/migration “expert” who works as an interpreter of numerous Middle-Eastern languages. The interpreter, Magda Nasrin Katona, has accused NGOs of conducting “subversive activities” in refugee camps that involve compelling interpreters to lie on behalf of asylum-seekers to win them more favorable rulings in court.
Katona most recently gave a long interview which appeared as a cover story in the weekly pro-government news magazine Figyelő, in which she painted an apocalyptic picture of immigration in Hungary where “radical Islam is pulling the strings” with the assistance of human rights NGOs and corrupt interpreters. According to Katona, refugees and asylum-seekers are in fact “invaders” who are moving into Hungary in organized battalions, led by commanders and enabled by these domestic civil organizations.
The pot calling the kettle black
According to a report by index.hu, however, Katona herself has a history of perpetrating the very same crimes of which she accuses others, and is under investigation for distorting a translation she prepared on behalf of a 23-year-old Arabic-speaking defendant in a Hungarian court.
As we reported in spring, Hungarian prosecutors sought a suspended prison sentence for a translator they found had deliberately tampered with the testimony of an asylum-seeking defendant put on trial in 2016 for his role in the Battle of Röszke. When the court discovered the discrepancies between the official testimony of the Syrian defendant and the Hungarian translation provided by the translator, it concluded the differences were so egregious they warranted a criminal complaint. The unnamed translator faced a five-year prison sentence.
The index.hu report reveals that the accused translator was none other than the pro-government media’s “expert”, Magda Nasrin Katona, who was found to have fabricated information not given in the defendant’s original statement, omitted other information, and deliberately changed the context of certain statements. The defendant’s statement professed his innocence, but Katona’s translation suggested the opposite. Upon hearing the translation of his statement read to him in Arabic, the defendant was shocked and immediately protested.
Given these alleged lies and distortions, Katona’s accusations against other interpreters seem particularly shocking.
In her interview with Figyelő, Katona refers, in the third person, to the case of “an expert who came up in the [border] fence attack suit. She is a degree-holding Hungarian Arabist who had no trouble in her work for forty years.” Katona then complains that this anonymous “lying translator” had been accused of producing falsified translations when in fact the NGO Hungarian Helsinki Committee had encouraged the asylum-seeker to change his testimony. Katona was in fact referring to herself in the third person: she is the “lying translator” who will soon go before a court to face the charges against her.
Who beat whom?
Katona was also involved in another suit in 2012 in which she accused a woman of beating her with a stick and attacking her with her dog. She maintained her allegations throughout the trial, which dragged on for years, but was finally herself convicted of providing false testimony in the case after security camera footage showed that Katona had, in fact, beaten the very woman she had accused of assault, and also the dog she was walking, with a stick. Katona received an eight-month suspended prison sentence.
Incidentally, Katona once again spoke in the third person about this case in an interview with pro-government daily Magyar Idők, in which she described an anonymous woman who had defended herself with a stick against a dog attack.
According to index.hu, a mental health expert was summoned by the court during the trial.
FAKE NEWS Washington Post
In 2010, the Washington Post ran a story alleging that Katona had been recorded soliciting a bribe in return for manipulating the results of contentious parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, where Katona was working as an election monitor. The story was also covered by index.hu, after which Katona sued the news portal. In her testimony, Katona produced a document which showed she had won a lawsuit against the Washington Post for their running of the story. However, index.hu sought court documents from the United States which showed that Katona had forged the documents she had submitted to the court, and had won no lawsuit against the American newspaper.
Additionally, information uncovered during the index.hu investigation in 2010 showed that Katona, after twice unsuccessfully defending her PhD dissertation, plagiarized a third version and submitted it, but it too was rejected.