Reuters: A soldier who worked as an interpreter for NATO’s commander in Afghanistan pleaded not guilty on Friday to passing secrets to Iran in Britain’s first spy trial since the Cold War. By Peter Graff
LONDON (Reuters) – A soldier who worked as an interpreter for NATO’s commander in Afghanistan pleaded not guilty on Friday to passing secrets to Iran in Britain’s first spy trial since the Cold War.
Corporal Daniel James, 44, worked as an interpreter for General David Richards, who commanded the 30,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan until earlier this year. James has an Iranian mother and took British citizenship in the 1980s.
He is accused of passing secrets to an “enemy” — Iran — and is the first person charged with spying under the Official Secrets Act since 1984, when an MI5 officer was jailed for giving secrets to the Soviets.
Appearing on a videolink from jail, James told the Old Bailey he was not guilty of three separate charges — that he engaged in wrongful conduct, passed secrets and possessed material to pass on.
“Your honour, I am a serving soldier. I wish to be court martialled by the army. I do not recognise this court,” he said after entering his final not guilty plea. “I am an innocent man.”
His indictment says he “for purposes prejudicial to the safety or the interest of the state, communicated to another person information calculated to be, or that might be, or is intended to be directly or indirectly useful to the enemy.”
The United States and Britain have accused Iran of meddling in the war in Afghanistan, where the two countries are the biggest members of a NATO force fighting Taliban guerrillas in the south.
The mainly Shi’ite government of Iran is not seen as sympathetic to the Sunni Taliban movement, but the Western allies say Iran would like to see its foes bogged down by fighting there.