British academic accused of spying sentenced to life in UAE

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The United Arab Emirates have sentenced a British academic accused of spying to life imprisonment.

Matthew Hedges, 31, was sentenced when he appeared in court in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, a representative for Mr Hedges' family said.

The Middle Eastern studies specialist from Durham University visited the country to research his PhD thesis and was arrested in Dubai Airport on May 5.

At the last hearing, on October 24, a court-appointed lawyer maintained Mr Hedges' innocence, arguing that the evidence brought forward - Mr Hedges' notes from his PhD research - did not contain anything confidential, meaning the court should review it before passing judgment.

The court agreed and postponed the hearing until November 21.

Mr Hedges was released from detention on October 29 and had since been staying in Dubai, with an ankle bracelet monitoring his movements.


Jeremy Hunt 'deeply shocked' by verdict

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt urged the UAE court to reconsider the sentence.

"I am deeply shocked and disappointed by the verdict today," he said.

"I have personally raised the case of Matthew Hedges at the highest levels of the UAE government, including during my visit to Abu Dhabi on 12 November.

“On that occasion, I spoke to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.

"However, today's verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances.

"Our consular officials have been in close contact with Matthew Hedges and his family. We will continue to do everything possible to support him.

“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, which has to be built on trust.”