Reuters: A British soldier who worked as an interpreter for NATO’s commander in Afghanistan should face trial within the coming year over accusations he spied for Iran, a judge said on Friday. LONDON (Reuters) – A British soldier who worked as an interpreter for NATO’s commander in Afghanistan should face trial within the coming year over accusations he spied for Iran, a judge said on Friday.
Corporal Daniel James, 44, who worked for NATO’s General David Richards, is accused of breaching Britain’s Official Secrets Act by passing on secrets to an “enemy”.
James, who became a British citizen in the mid-1980s, has an Iranian mother and speaks fluent Pashtun, the main language of southern Afghanistan, according to newspaper reports.
On Friday, he appeared for a preliminary hearing at the Old Bailey court via videolink from a prison in southwest London. Dressed in a red T-shirt, he spoke only to confirm his name and that he could hear the proceedings.
Judge Justice David Calvert-Smith said James would appear for a hearing on June 15 to enter a plea and that a trial, likely to last about three months, should take place in January 2008, or earlier.
The court then ejected members of the public and journalists to allow an application for bail and other matters to be conducted in secret because of national security considerations.
As an interpreter for the British general who commands some 30,000 NATO troops fighting a resurgent Taliban in southern Afghanistan, James would be privy to highly sensitive military and political information.
The United States accuses Iran of being the world’s top sponsor of terrorism and aiding the remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Officially Shi’ite Muslim Iran long supported the opposition mujahideen against the Taliban until the radical Sunni government was overthrown by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.
But some analysts have suggested that Tehran may now be partially backing the Taliban to embarrass Western forces and ensure they are bogged down in Afghanistan.
James faces a charge that “for a purpose 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”.
He is the first person to be charged with spying under the Official Secrets Act since an MI5 officer was jailed for 23 years in 1984 for passing secrets to the Soviet Union.