NEWS
21/11/2018 11:34 GMT | Updated 21/11/2018 15:23 GMT

Matthew Hedges: British Student Sentenced To Life Imprisonment In UAE For Spying

A family spokeswoman confirmed the news.

A UAE court sentenced British academic Matthew Hedges to life in prison on Wednesday, after he was charged with spying last month.

The 31-year-old, a doctoral student at Durham University, has been held in the UAE since 5 May, when he was arrested at Dubai airport after a two-week research visit.  

According to his wife, Daniela Tejada, Hedges was “shaking” as the sentence was handed down in an Abu Dhabi court hearing that lasted just five minutes, stating afterwards that the couple’s “nightmare has gotten even worse”.

“This has been the worst six months of my life, let alone for Matt,” she added. “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.”

In the wake of the sentencing, Theresa May promised the Foreign Office would “do all we can to support” Hedges’ loved ones “as they consider the next steps”.

“We will continue to press this matter at the highest level with the Emiratis,” she added. 

PA
Matthew Hedges with his wife, Daniel Tejada

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has also spoken out, stating that the UK’s relationship with the UAE will be hurt by Hedges’ sentencing.

“Today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances,” he said.

“The handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust. I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider.”

Hedges, a Middle Eastern studies specialist, visited the country to research his PhD thesis and was arrested at Dubai Airport on 5 May.

He was subsequently bailed at a hearing on 30 October and remained on bail until Wednesday’s hearing. 

Tejada has consistently protested her husband’s innocence. 

In October, she said he had been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest, stating: “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.”

Describing her husband as “a brilliant researcher [and] a man of integrity”, she said: “He has been punished in the most unjust and unfair way. His rights are violated on a daily basis. 

“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,” Tejada said.