Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Wednesday, 15 October 2008 14:42 UK

Spy suspect 'embarrassed general'

Daniel James (left)
Daniel James (left) translated for Gen Sir David Richards

An ex-British Army interpreter accused of spying for Iran kept the entire Afghan parliament waiting by arriving late for a speech, a court has heard.

Gen Sir David Richards was embarrassed and threatened to sack his translator Daniel James, the Old Bailey was told.

He put up with Iranian-born Mr James's "bizarre" behaviour because he depended on him, prosecutors say.

Mr James, 45, from Brighton, denies two charges under the Official Secrets Act and wilful misconduct in public office.

Prosecutors have alleged that his loyalty to the UK "wavered" because he thought he had been snubbed for promotion and had been the victim of racism.

Mr James is alleged to have betrayed Britain by passing coded messages to the Iranian military attache in Kabul.

Angry reaction

Gen Richards, who headed the International Security Assistance Force, had been due to address the Afghans at the organisation's headquarters in Kabul in 2006.

The court heard he stood before the assembled legislators to make his speech but was left "embarrassed" because Mr James, who was supposed to translate the speech into Dari, had not arrived.

Maj James Driscoll, who worked as the general's military assistant, described his angry reaction to the court.

"At that moment he said 'I will sack him'," Maj Driscoll told the jury.

Salsa dance instructor Mr James had been called up as a Territorial Army reservist in March 2006.

Maj Driscoll said he found Mr James to be "always polite" although he sometimes had a "slightly overinflated opinion of himself".

He told the court that he had had to speak to him about "discipline issues" including a lack of punctuality.

'Wanted promotion'

The trial heard Mr James ignored military protocol by making himself a point of contact for Gen Richards with the Iranian embassy by giving officials his business card.

Such matters should have been handled by the general's staff.

Maj Driscoll also told how James had asked for promotion, saying he was "doing a major's work with a corporal's pay", before changing his mind and declaring he was "not bothered".

Captain Simon Briggs, the aide de camp to Gen Richards, told the court James's "overly enthusiastic" attitude changed towards the end of his service.

"He was not performing to the standard required of him and was told that on a number of occasions," he said.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday.


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