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UAE charges UK academic with spying

October 15, 2018

A British academic who was in the United Arab Emirates to research the effects of the Arab Spring on the country has been charged with spying. Matthew Hedges has already been in custody for several months.

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada (private)
Matthew Hedges and wife Daniela Tejada, who says her husband has been held in solitary confinement for monthsImage: privat

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said on Monday that British doctoral student Matthew Hedges had been charged with spying.

The 31-year-old was arrested on May 5 in Dubai, after a two-week research visit to the country. Investigators said evidence had been gathered from Hedges' electronic devices and intelligence from UAE intelligence agencies.

"The Attorney General of United Arab Emirates ... confirmed today that Mr. Matthew Hedges, a British Citizen, has been charged with spying for and on behalf of a foreign State, jeopardizing the military, economy and political security of the UAE," the government said in a statement.

UAE Attorney General Hamad Said al-Shamsi said the charges were "based on legal evidence and findings from investigations that were carried out by the public prosecution."

Hedges had appeared in court in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, last week, but was not informed of any charges at the time.

Read more: Qatari royal says he's being held against his will in UAE

Hedges, whose research interests include civil-military relations, political economy, and tribalism, last year co-authored an academic journal on relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is a member, and the transnational Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Although it is an important trade hub and popular tourist destination, the UAE tolerates very little public criticism of its policies and monarchy. The country's leadership is fiercely opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, which espouses political Islam.

Read more: Dubai: Can the city of black gold go green?

Hedges' wife Daniela Tejada said her husband had not been given proper medical care and attention during his tie in custody and had been held in solitary confinement throughout. She said his research relied only on information that was in the public sphere and appealed for his return.

"He's not disclosed anything... classified or confidential," said Tejada.

Read more: UAE jails rights activist Ahmed Mansoor over social media posts

"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."

A spokesperson for the UK government said last week that Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had "personally raised Hedges' case with his Emirati counterpart."

"We are assisting his family and remain in close contact with the local authorities," the spokesperson said.

rc/amp (Reuters, AFP)

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