According to the BBC World News of November 5, 2008, Daniel James, an Iranian-born translator for General David Richards, England’s top general in Afghanistan, has been found guilty of spying for Iran. To read the full article, go to BBC News.
James, from Brighton, England, was accused of three crimes, including communicating information to the enemy, collecting documents useful to the enemy, and willful misconduct in a public office. He was found guilty on the first charge, the most serious of the three, and the jury is still deliberating on the second two.
The prosecution claimed that James had been caught “red-handed” with secret emails while attempting to pass information on to the insurgents and with incriminating photos in his room. In his defense, James claimed that he remained a loyal British soldier and that those accusing him of spying were “mad.”
In light of the current political climate, trying such cases objectively is difficult, as juries, especially military tribunals, are laced with all sorts of local suspicions and prejudices. Indeed, some of the descriptions of James by the prosecution–that he was flamboyant and that he invited the general to a salsa dance–seem to have little to do with the case. My general feeling is that many translators on both sides of the conflict are suffering a disproportionate share of the blame and the punishment.