A former U.S. military translator accused of conspiring to help the regime of fallen Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein simply passed along benign information in the 1990s about Iraqi Christians in the United States, a defense lawyer told jurors Wednesday on the first full day of trial.

Issam Hamama, 60, of El Cajon, Calif., is charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered agent and making false statements to investigators.

Hamama, an Iraqi native who left that country in 1979, was identified as agent 6129 in documents seized by the U.S. government after Hussein’s fall in 2003. Hamama applied to become a U.S. translator in Iraq that same year and declared he had never had contact with foreign governments.

Defense attorney Haytham Faraj acknowledged Hamama had contact in the 1990s with Iraqi officials stationed in the U.S.

“Mr. Hamama believed they were diplomats,” not Iraqi intelligence agents, Faraj told jurors. “Now he finds himself in this terrible nightmare.”

See:  Los Angeles Times