Briton before judge in spy case

The travails of Peter Bleach continue in Calcutta. The Yorkshire gunrunner, who says he was working undercover for British intelligence when he arranged a night parachute drop of weapons over rural West Bengal state in December 1995, finally went before a judge yesterday. Mr Bleach, 44, told the court he will plead his own case when his trial for treason gets under way on 20 February, some two months behind schedule. He faces the death penalty if found guilty.

Mr Bleach has declined an Indian advocate. He complained to the court about reports in the Indian press that he had been charged in Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and would risk legal action if he returned home. "This is definitely prejudicial to a fair trial," he said. David Belgrove, a British consular officer in Calcutta, confirmed that the reports were "bogus". "There are no British charges," he said.

"Unfortunately, everybody seems to want to believe that I am guilty," Mr Bleach said. "The main charge they have against me is 'conspiracy to wage war'. How can I possibly be guilty of conspiracy when the first thing I did was call the police?"

He maintains that as soon as he suspected the arms he dropped over West Bengal might be intended for insurgents, he informed the British Ministry of Defence and local authorities. He claims that after the agencies failed to seize the weapons despite his intelligence, he became a public embarrassment and a scapegoat.

"The bulk of the blame lies with British Special Branch. They sat on my information from September till December, then just told me to pull out," Mr Bleach said. "I told them I thought the guns were to be used to kill politicians and party workers of the government."

Mr Bleach has been in Presidency jail for 14 months, with six others arrested in connection with the case, including the Latvian crew who piloted the cargo aircraft that dropped the arms.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£22000 - £25900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is expanding and th...

Recruitment Genius: Corporate Account Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Corporate Account Manager is ...

Recruitment Genius: Chef de Partie

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This award winning conference venues provider...

Recruitment Genius: Admin Assistant

£12000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding Insurance Brokerag...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders