A case against a former CIA officer accused of spying for China is too complex for a trial to happen until at least September 2021, a judge ruled on Thursday.

Prosecutors asked the judge to declare the case complex against Alexander Yuk Ching Ma, a former CIA officer and contract linguist for the FBI.

The Hong Kong-born naturalised US citizen was arrested in August after an undercover operation in which prosecutors say he accepted thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for his past espionage activities.

He told a law enforcement officer who was posing as a Chinese intelligence officer that he wanted to see the “motherland” succeed and that he was eager to resume helping China after the coronavirus pandemic subsided, prosecutors said.

The case is “so unusual and so complex that it is unreasonable to expect adequate preparation” for a trial to happen any time soon, said US Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield.

Much of the evidence is classified at secret or top-secret levels, Mansfield said.“We don’t oppose this motion. It’s clearly a complex case,” said Ma’s defence lawyer, Birney Bervar.Declaring the case complex means that Ma waives his speedy trial rights.

“All I want is a fair trial,” Ma said by phone from the Honolulu Federal Detention Centre.