Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 20:01 UK

Spy suspect was 'doing gas deal'

Daniel James (left)
Daniel James (left) was a translator for Gen Sir David Richards

A former British Army interpreter accused of sending secrets to Iran was not spying, but setting up a gas supply deal, he has told a court.

Daniel James told the Old Bailey that he wanted to put in place a deal for Afghanistan to buy gas from Iran.

He said he remained a loyal British soldier and that those who accused him of being a spy were "mad".

Mr James denies charges under the Official Secrets Act that he betrayed Britain for the country of his birth.

The Iranian-born corporal, who worked for the head of multi-national forces, General David Richards, in Afghanistan, said he hoped to improve relations between the US and Iran by brokering a gas deal, as well as making money for himself.

Offering my services as a spy? I am not a spy, they are going mad
Daniel James

Mr James, 45, from Brighton, told the court: "I said, if I could get another source from Iran, America would pay less and Iran would get business.

"It would create trade between the two and it would create peace."

Emails sent to him by the Iranian military attache in Kabul were in fact attempts to set up the deal, he claimed.

The 45-year-old was asked to explain e-mails to the Iranian military attache Col Mohammad Heydari, including one which he concluded by saying "at your service".

He replied: "This is a courtesy in Iranian culture and it is used very often."

'Sexy and important'

In another e-mail, the former interpreter described how if he said in future messages that "the weather is cold" it was not safe to be in touch.

Mr James explained that he was "trying to make my e-mail look sexy and important, give the impression that I have got great ideas".

He told the court that a reference in another e-mail to having pictures of "those whose job is black" was about his interest in black magic.

Mr James admitted lying to police about the emails, but said this was also because of the stress of being arrested and handcuffed.

James added: "I don't know anything about Iranian intelligence, I have never met one, I have never seen one."

Colin Nicholls QC, defending, asked Mr James: "Did your loyalty veer from loyalty to Britain to loyalty to Iran?"

He replied: "Nonsense. I am still loyal to Britain. I am still a soldier."

Asked if he ever collected or communicated information useful to an enemy Mr James replied: "No sir. Nonsense.

"Offering my services as a spy? I am not a spy, they are going mad."

Secret reports

Mr James was asked about a compact disc containing photos of a Predator unmanned surveillance drone.

He said: "I have never seen it in my life before. The only Predator I have seen before is Arnold Schwarzenegger."

The defendant said secret documents about troop movements and munitions which had been found in his possession had been given to him for translation.

He was also asked how he came to have two secret situation reports stored on a USB memory stick when he was arrested in December 2006.

James said he was asked to translate the documents, which were sent to him and then downloaded on to the USB by an Afghan interpreter.

He told the court he produced a translation into Dari and took it to a meeting of senior officers from Afghanistan, the US and Britain, where it was given to the Afghan officers.

The trial continues.


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