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21st Nov 2018

British student sentenced to life imprisonment in the UAE for ‘spying’

Jean-Emile Jammine

PHD student Matthew Hedges sentenced to life in UAE Credit: Daniela Tejada

British student Matthew Hedges has been sentenced to life in prison in the UAE, after being accused of spying

The PHD student from Durham University was returning home from Dubai on May 5 when he was detained.

Hedges was busy working on a thesis focusing on the security policies surrounding the Arab Spring in 2011, but local authorities claimed at the time that this was actually a cover. An Abu Dhabi court today declared that the 31-year-old was guilty of spying and that his work was for a “foreign agency,” thought now to be the UK government.

The hearing allegedly lasted less than 5 minutes and Hedges wasn’t allowed any representation. His wife Daniela Tejada was present at the court and was in “complete shock” as she listened to the verdict.

She went on to attack the decision: “Matthew is innocent. The Foreign Office know this and have 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 called on the British government to “take a stand” and berated the UAE authorities exclaiming that they “should feel ashamed for such an obvious injustice.”

A family statement released six weeks after Hedges was detained, revealed that he was made to sign what transpired to be a confession document. As it was written in Arabic, his family claims he couldn’t understand what he was signing.

Following today’s verdict, Tejada said: “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.”

Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt expressed “Deep shock and disappointment… Today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom. I have repeatedly made clear that the handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries.”

PM Theresa May echoed these sentiments saying she was, “deeply disappointed and concerned” following the final decision. She is now set to raise the issue with authorities at the ‘highest level’ in the UAE.