Matthew Hedges case

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Matthew Hedges: Academic 'psychologically tortured' in UAE

Today Programme

BBC Radio 4

Matthew Hedges, the student jailed for spying in the United Arab Emirates but later pardoned and released, says he endured "psychological torture" while in prison.

The academic, who lives in Exeter, told the BBC's Today programme that he was asked to act as a double agent in the UK's Foreign Office, and confessed to being a captain in MI6 to stop the "torture".

He also described the moment of his conviction as a total shock that he "wasn't able to process".

The UAE government said the academic, currently studying in Durham, was "100% a spy" but pardoned him on 26 November.

Matthew Hedges endured 'psychological torture' in UAE jail
British academic Matthew Hedges said he was drugged by the Emirati authorities and forced to stand "all day" in ankle cuffs.

Academic now on mission to clear his name

Matthew Hedges says he is now on a mission to clear his name of spying charges.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The path we're on now is to accept what's happened, and now to try and find ways and means of clearing my name because our life has been detrimentally affected."

Jailed academic 'does not know' why he was targeted

When asked why the UAE targeted him, Matthew Hedges told the BBC: "That's something that's still not clear, I really don't know, I don't think it's a personal vendetta against myself, maybe there's something else that I don't know about, but I didn't have any secret information, this was made very clear, it's all open source information."

UAE interrogators 'asked me to spy for them'

Matthew Hedges says his interrogators in the UAE offered him the chance to spy for them while he was in prison.

The Durham academic told the BBC: "This is how my panic attacks started, this was on the first week, on the third of fourth day, they propositioned me to steal official documentation from the Foreign Office.

"And so I responded, I had a panic attack, and I said 'listen, even if I wanted to I couldn't, I don't work for the Foreign Office, I don't know how you think this would be possible'.

"And that's how that whole process went downhill quite quickly."

Government 'should be challenged to change'

Daniela Tejada is calling on people to challenge the Government to make sure what happened to her husband doesn't happen to anyone else.

Speaking about the Foreign Office, she said: "It's very hard to assess whether they did things as quickly and as effectively as they could. I wouldn't attribute any of what has happened to perhaps individual decisions or mistakes.

"I think it's a wider and institutional issue, things as simple as the data protection act, the fact they were unwilling or unable to share information about Matt’s whereabouts or his condition for six weeks because they didn't have his explicit authorisation.

"They weren't getting access to him so how could they get his explicit authorisation?"

She said she believes institutions are run by rules and it is very hard to get them to act independently and assess them on a case-by-case basis.

She said: "I think that it's a wider issue that should be challenged or should be questioned by the wider public

"We really need to ask our Government whether they are indeed taking the right measures to ensure these sort of situations don't happen to other people

"People have the responsibility to demand their Government change things," she said.

Daniela Tejada
PA

Academic jailed in UAE contemplated suicide

The Durham academic jailed for life for spying in the UAE has told the BBC he contemplated suicide during his detention

Matthew Hedges told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I was expecting to be taken to jail, but instead I was taken back to this interrogation room, and then I was subsequently interrogated again the following day.

"So nothing was making sense, I couldn't process it.

"That weekend was the second or third time I had had suicidal thoughts, because I was expecting to go to a jail and we would try and find a way through this, but instead I was back in the same cell.

"I was having quite bad panic attacks, I was choking, I couldn't breathe, and in that night I dreamt that I was hanging myself in the cell, so that wasn't good. It was very hard to deal with throughout the whole interrogation process."

Matthew hedges and Daniela Tejada
Daniela Tejada

Durham academic felt 'complete and total shock' at life sentence

Matthew Hedges has told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was in "complete and total shock" after a court in the UAE handed down a life sentence for spying.

He said: "I wasn't able to process it right in the court, it was too much, like an explosion.

"I couldn't say goodbye to Dani or anyone else, I was just rushed out of the court and put in a car and taken back to the same interrogation room where I was held for the previous six months."

Daniela Tejada said seeing husband jailed was 'heartbreaking'

Matthew Hedges' wife Daniela Tejada said the whole experience had been "horrendous".

She said from day one she knew it would be a lot more complicated than people were telling her.

She said: "Naturally hearing he would sentenced to life in prison for something he didn't do was heartbreaking."

She added seeing him shaking in court without being able to say goodbye had not been easy.

Daniela Tejada
BEN STANSALL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES