Durham University student arrested for espionage in the UAE



A British student from Durham University has been held in solitary confinement for spying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).


This undated image shows Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada

The accused person, Matthew Hedges, was detained “without explanation” five months ago. He was on a research trip in the UAE, the UK Telegraph confirmed.

Hedges, 31, was studying for his doctorate degree before the arrest. He was reportedly taken into custody at Dubai airport on May 5 after travelling to the UAE to interview sources about the country’s foreign policy and security strategy.

The PhD student has been held without charge ever since and his rights are being “violated on a daily basis”, his wife Daniela Tejada said. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is understood to have personally raised Mr Hedges’s case with his UAE counterpart amid concerns over his mental health and well-being.

British officials have visited Mr Hedges twice, although he is said to have been prevented from discussing his case with them.

In the first month he was held, Ms Tejada he was not allowed to shower and was made to sleep on the floor. After that, he was only granted a shower every two weeks, and finally after three months of solitary confinement he was given a foam mattress.

He was allowed to see a doctor who prescribed a cocktail of medication to treat his mental health with little to no success.

In one conversation with his wife, Mr Hedges expressed that he was having suicidal thoughts.  The conditions in which he is being kept are inhumane and degrading.

Mr Hedges’s case was heard by a court in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, but was adjourned until another hearing on October 24. Ms Tejada said all she wants “is for Matt to come home safely”.

“We cannot believe this has happened. We have been patient and done everything that has been advised, supposedly in Matt’s best interest, but we can no longer go on like this.

“Matt is a brilliant researcher, a man of integrity, and he has been punished in the most unjust and unfair way. His rights are violated on a daily basis and I am shocked that more has not been done to get him out,” she said in a statement.

“Matt is a British citizen; he visited the UAE exclusively for academic research purposes and has been detained without charge for over five months in an undisclosed location. This is appalling and more must be done to ensure he is safely brought home.”

According to a profile on the Durham University website, Mr Hedges’s research includes Middle Eastern politics, the changing nature of war, civil-military relations and tribalism.

Ms Tejada said the UK should review its educational ties with the UAE in light of Mr Hedges’s detention, warning academic researchers like him “face great risks in the UAE”.

She said: “All I want is for Matt to come home safely. The longer this goes on, the longer the recovery from this traumatic experience will take.

“I am extremely worried about Matt’s mental health and general wellbeing. I am shocked and confused by the whole situation and will do everything I can to make sure he comes home soon.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our staff are supporting a British man following his detention in the UAE. We are assisting his family and remain in close contact with authorities.

“The Foreign Secretary has also personally raised his case with his Emirati counterpart.”