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Fake interpreter cites schizophrenia

Johannesburg - The man accused of faking sign interpretation while standing alongside world leaders like U.S. President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela's memorial service said Thursday he saw "angels" at the event, has been violent in the past and suffers from schizophrenia.

Thamsanqa Jantjie said in an interview with The Associated Press that his hallucinations began while he was interpreting and that he tried not to panic because there were "armed policemen around me." He added that he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than one year.
Jantjie, who stood gesticulating three-feet from Obama and others who spoke at Tuesday's ceremony that was broadcast around the world, insisted that he was doing proper sign-language interpretation of the speeches of world leaders.

But he also apologized for his performance that has been dismissed by many sign-language experts as gibberish.

"What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium ... I start realizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don't know the attack of this problem, how will it come. Sometimes I get violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things chasing me," Jantjie said.

Asked how often he had become violent, he said "a lot" while declining to provide details.

Contacted by telephone Thursday by AP, SA Interpreters, the organization that reportedly hired Jantjie to do the sign language interpreting at the memorial, declined to comment.

AP writer Ray Faure contributed to this report.

 
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