Emirati court formally charges British student with spying


After five months in solitary confinement, Matthew Hedges was officially charged with spying for a foreign state

Hedges and Daniela Tejada, his wife of two years (Screengrab)
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Last update: 
Monday 15 October 2018 15:58 UTC

A British PhD student who was arrested in May on suspicion of spying on the UAE government, was referred to court for trial on Monday and officially charged with spying for a foreign state.

Matthew Hedges, 31, had been in the country on a two-week visit to carry out interviews for his doctoral thesis on Emirati security policies after the Arab Spring when he was detained on 5 May at Dubai airport.

He has a brilliant academic mind and an impeccable track record. He is kind and caring and greatly loved and respected. Please send him home

- Daniela Tejada, wife of Matthew Hedges

His wife of two years, Daniela Tejada, has said that he was held continuously in solitary confinement since then and is suffering from anxiety and depression, but has not received appropriate medical care.

According to local news reports and a tweet from a former adviser to Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Hedges was referred on Monday to Abu Dhabi's Court of Appeal.

The UAE's attorney general, Hamad al-Shamsi, told Khaleej Times that he used his academic research as a cover to spy, an act which "jeopardises the military, economic and political security of the UAE".

Shamsi also was also quoted as saying that Hedges, who is a PhD candidate at Durham University, appeared in court along with British embassy and consulate officials, a lawyer and a legal translator.

Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, the former adviser to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, tweeted on Monday that Hedges' rights were "fully guaranteed" during investigations and the British embassy was "informed about his case all along".

But in a statement on Monday afternoon, Tejada that she had not seen "any official indication" from the UAE or from the UK Foreign Office that Hedges had been in court on Monday.

"As his wife I have been informed that his trial is going to resume on Wednesday 24 October," she said. "I have not received an official translation of the statement from the UAE attorney general apparently published today."

Hedges, she said, does not speak Arabic and has been "unable to communicate fully with the court-appointed lawyer, who he has only met once, at his court hearing last week". She also said he had only been granted two consular visits while he was in custody.

"Matt is a man of integrity and principle. He has a brilliant academic mind and an impeccable track record. He is kind and caring and greatly loved and respected. Please send him home," she said.

Hedges used to work for a security and political consultancy based in the UAE as an analyst.

His colleagues believe he was accused of spying for Qatar, a state with which the UAE, along with Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, cut ties last June.

According to the Telegraph, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is thought to have personally raised Hedges' case with UAE authorities.