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Army interpreter to be tried over claim he spied for Iran

By Terri Judd

An Army interpreter accused of spying for Iran has began trial at the Old Bailey. His solicitor said he was confident he would clear his name.

Cpl Daniel James, 44, who is charged under the Official Secrets Act 1911 with passing information which would be "directly or indirectly useful to the enemy", appeared before City of Westminster magistrates.

At the hearing, the Territorial Army soldier repeatedly mouthed the words "I'm innocent" to the public gallery, jabbing a finger to his chest, and, as he was led away, he called out: "Not guilty. This is the way the Army has repaid me."

Judge Timothy Workman - who held much of the hearing in private for fear information could "prejudice the security and safety of the state" - said bail had been refused, and set the preliminary hearing for 12 January.

Outside court, the defendant's solicitor, David Martin, said: "As you heard personally from my client when he spoke in court, he's innocent of the charge against him. He served with the British Army for almost 20 years in any way that he has been called to do so, irrespective of religious or political considerations, and he's been proud to do so. He's distressed by the false allegation apparently being made by the very people he served so loyally. He's looking forward to presenting his case in court and answering the allegation made and clearing his name, as he's absolutely confident he will do."

Due to the nature of the alleged offence, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, must give his consent for the case to be sent to Crown Court before any plea can be entered.

Born in Tehran, Cpl James moved to the UK as a teenager following the overthrow of the Shah, though his mother is said to be still living in Iran.

He became a British citizen and joined the Territorial Army company of the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment 19 years ago, subsequently changing his name from Esmail Gamasai.

In his home town of Brighton, East Sussex, he was known to neighbours as Danny J, a fitness fanatic and salsa teacher who taught at leisure centres before taking over a nightclub six years ago. He resigned as director of the club in February last year. Friends said he was proud of his Army connections and they never heard him express anti-British or American sentiments.

He was in demand in the military for his fluency in Farsi - similar to Dari and Pashto, Afghanistan's main languages. His linguistic talents earned him the position of interpreter to General David Richards, the British commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, in March.

Richard Whittam, for the prosecution, said earlier this month he had been arrested by counter terrorism detectives. It is alleged that on 2 November this year, for a purpose prejudicial to the safety of the state, he "communicated to another person information calculated to be directly or indirectly useful to the enemy".

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