AP: A British army interpreter suspected of spying for Iran said Friday that he sent coded messages as part of an attempt to set up a possible gas deal, not because he was stealing secrets.
The Associated Press
By DAVID STRINGER
LONDON (AP) — A British army interpreter suspected of spying for Iran said Friday that he sent coded messages as part of an attempt to set up a possible gas deal, not because he was stealing secrets.
Prosecutors accuse Cpl. Daniel James of espionage while he worked in Afghanistan in 2006 as a translator to Gen. David Richards, who was then NATO commander and due to take command of Britain's army in 2009. On Thursday, James told the court he was a voodoo priest and had used black magic to protect Richards from the Taliban.
James, who was born in Iran but moved to Britain as a teenager, sent e-mails to Iran's military attache in Kabul, Col. Mohammad Heydar, including one which ended with the phrase, "I am at your service."
He denies charges of communicating information useful to an enemy and collecting information — including two NATO situation reports — on a USB memory device. He also denies willful misconduct in public office.
As James gave testimony, defense lawyer Colin Nicholls asked whether he had switched loyalties from Britain to the country of his birth.
"Nonsense. I am still loyal to Britain. I am still a soldier," James told jurors at London's Old Bailey.
He dismissed prosecutors claims that a series of e-mails sent to Heydar meant James was either attempting to begin spying for Iran, or had already begun passing secrets to the regime in Tehran.
"Offering my services as a spy? I am not a spy; they are going mad," James told jurors at London's Old Bailey court.
In another e-mail, James told Heydar that if in the future it was not safe for him to be contacted, he would write that the weather was cold — a coded warning, according to prosecutors.
James, who had previously held a job as a salsa dancing instructor, told the court that cryptic phrases in his e-mails were an attempt to sound "sexy and important," rather than a code.
He claimed he had hoped to set up a deal for Afghanistan to buy gas from Iran, and believed that any arrangement could benefit the U.S. by reducing energy prices.
"I said, if I could get another source from Iran, America would pay less and Iran would get business," James told the court. "It would create trade between the two and it would create peace."
The ex-interpreter denied allegations he kept a CD containing photographs of an unmanned Predator spy drone
"I have never seen it in my life before," James told the court in evidence. "The only Predator I have seen before is Arnold Schwarzenegger."
James, 45, joined the British reserves in 1987, and was called up to serve a tour in Afghanistan in March 2006. Two months later, he was appointed translator for Richards, who was then the overall commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.