Briton on UAE spy charge jailed for life

Matthew Hedges

Matthew Hedges

A British PhD student has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of spying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Matthew Hedges, 31, of Durham University, always denied the charge saying he had been conducting research.

A court in Abu Dhabi has declared him guilty of “spying for or on behalf of” the UK government. His family claims the verdict is based on a false confession.

The Prime Minister (PM) said the UK was urgently seeking talks with the Emirati government.

Theresa May said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was “seeking a call with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed”.

Mr Hunt said he was “deeply shocked and disappointed” by the verdict.

 

He has raised the case with the “highest levels of the UAE government” and the verdict “is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances”.

In a statement Hedges’ family said during the first six weeks of his detention, he was interrogated without a lawyer and consular access was unavailable.

During this time, they said, he was made to sign a document in Arabic which it transpired was a confession.

“Matthew does not speak or read Arabic,” the family said.

Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, who was present during the brief hearing earlier, said she was in “complete shock”.

She said: “Matthew is innocent. The Foreign Office knows this and has made it clear to the UAE authorities that Matthew is not a spy for them.

“This whole case has been handled appallingly from the very beginning with no-one taking Matthew’s case seriously.”

She said the British government “must take a stand now” and the UAE authorities “should feel ashamed for such an obvious injustice”.

Ms Tejada said her husband shook his head as the verdict was delivered, adding: “I am very scared for Matt.

“I don’t know where they are taking him or what will happen now. Our nightmare has gotten even worse.”

At prime minister’s questions, Tory MP Crispin Blunt told Mrs May she should make clear to the UAE that “if he is not released, I don’t see why we should be committed to their defence”. -BBC

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