UAE sentences British academic to life on espionage charges

Abu Dhabi [UAE]: Matthew Hedges, a specialist in Middle Eastern studies at UK’s Durham University, has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on charges of espionage.

Quoting the Hedges’ family’s spokeswoman, CNN reported that he was handed the sentence in a hearing that lasted five minutes where he was not given any legal representation.

Daniela Tejada, the academic’s wife, was present during the hearing and was in “complete shock” over the verdict, while she stated that Hedges was “shaking when he heard the verdict”.

“The British government must take a stand now for Matthew, one of their citizens. They say that the UAE is an ally, but the overwhelmingly arbitrary handling of Matt’s case indicates a scarily different reality, for which Matt and I are being made to pay a devastatingly high price,” Tejada stated while mentioning that nobody has been taking Matthew’s case seriously from the beginning.

“The UAE authorities should feel ashamed for such an obvious injustice. 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,” she said while underscoring that the past six months had been the “worst” of her life.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated that the sentence will direly affect UK-UAE relations on November 21 (IST) and tweeted, “News on Matthew Hedges extremely worrying. We have seen no evidence to back up charges against him. FCO will do ALL we can to get him home & I will meet his wife Daniela tomorrow. UAE claim to be friend & ally of the UK so there will be serious diplomatic consequences. Unacceptable.”

Hedges had been arrested by UAE authorities on May 5 this year when he was departing from Dubai airport following a research trip. He has been previously detained by UAE in solitary confinement on spying charges, following which he was granted bail earlier this year, according to CNN.