Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 13:48 UK

Spy suspect 'photographed Blair'

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

An ex-British Army interpreter accused of spying for Iran took photos of Tony Blair when the then prime minister visited Afghanistan, a court has heard.

Daniel James went with officers meeting Mr Blair's helicopter when he landed at the coalition forces' HQ in Kabul.

The court heard he was the only other soldier there apart from peacekeeping force head Gen Sir David Richards, his support staff and the protection team.

He denies misconduct in public office and two Official Secrets Act charges.

Mr James, who was called up as a Territorial Army reservist in March 2006, is alleged to have betrayed Britain and passed coded messages to the Iranian military attache in Kabul.

The 45-year-old from Brighton denies communicating and collecting information useful to an enemy, under the Official Secrets Act, as well as wilful misconduct in public office.

'New government needed'

The Iranian-born salsa dance instructor was working as an interpreter to Gen Richards, head of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in the country.

Jurors at the Old Bailey in London heard from Sgt Gareth Podesta, a member of the general's close protection team at the time, via videolink from Afghanistan.

He said: "He [Mr James] was out on the football pitch which is where the helicopters land, taking photos.

"There was nobody else apart from the general and his close staff, and the protection team such as myself. It seemed strange why he was there."

Colin Nicholls QC, defending Mr James, asked Sgt Podesta: "He was walking alongside Tony Blair at times?"

"He was in proximity, about 20 metres, walking along taking photos," the sergeant told the court.

Sgt Podesta also said Mr James had said he did not like Tony Blair, adding: "He didn't like the taxes in the UK and thought it needed a new government."

He told the court Mr James had been told off about his lack of punctuality and tendency to wander off.

Members of the general's staff would be concerned that their boss would be kept waiting when he left an appointment because Mr James had gone off to talk to people and could not be found.

Racist claim

The sergeant said Mr James was unhappy about being told off, and appeared to think "he could do what he wanted".

On one occasion he had been reprimanded after wandering off when the general's convoy was parked at the Afghan president's palace, he said.

Mr James was being told off by a sergeant when he turned his back to speak to an Afghan driver, the court heard.

When he was pulled up about this, Sgt Podesta said, Mr James's response was to accuse the sergeant of being racist.

The claim was taken "very seriously" and investigated by a sergeant major, the court heard.

The trial continues.


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