Ian Hargreaves told the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, that he had believed the newspaper was acting within the law in reproducing fragments of two of the documents in a report on the men's appeal.
The Attorney-General is seeking to have the newspaper fined for contempt of court for publishing the excerpts. Mr Hargreaves, together with Chris Blackhurst, the senior reporter involved, faces a possible prison sentence. At the Court of Appeal hearing in November 1995, the convictions of the four men, who ran Ordtech an arms technology company, were overturned on the grounds that vital documents had been withheld from their defence by the Government.
The men were convicted in 1992 of exporting an assembly line for manufacturing fuses for long-range artillery shells to Iraq. Senior ministers signed Public Interest Immunity certificates to prevent the disclosure to the trial of the documents, which revealed that Paul Grecian, head of Ordtech, had been working with the security services.
Philip Havers QC, counsel for the Attorney-General, argued yesterday that Mr Hargreaves and Mr Blackhurst must have been aware that when the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, ordered in July 1995 that the documents be made available to the defence, he had directed that they be used only "in connection with the proceedings".
The Independent argues that Lord Taylor at no stage made a formal order with sufficient clarity to bind the press.
Mr Blackhurst told the court that he too had been unaware of the July 1995 order, and said he had not read the newspaper cutting in which it was reported. The case continues today.Reuse content