Matthew Hedges: Durham student charged with UAE spying

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Daniela Tejada and Matthew HedgesImage source, Daniela Tejada
Image caption,
Durham student Matthew Hedges has been held in solitary confinement for five months, his wife says

A British student has been charged with spying for the UK government in the United Arab Emirates.

Matthew Hedges was accused of "spying for and on behalf of a foreign state", the UAE government said on Monday.

The 31-year-old PhD student at Durham University was arrested on 5 May in Dubai and has reportedly been held in solitary confinement for five months.

His wife Daniela Tejada has called on the UK government to deny he was spying for them.

Mr Hedges was detained at Dubai Airport as he was leaving the country following a research trip.

A family spokeswoman said he had been accused of spying for the UK government while in the UAE to interview sources about the country's foreign policy and security strategy.

In a statement, the UAE government said: "The attorney general of United Arab Emirates confirmed today that 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."

Image source, Daniela Tejada
Image caption,
Daniela Tejada says she is worried about her husband's mental health

Ms Tejada, who lives in Exeter with her husband, said she had seen reports he would go on trial for spying and would appear in court next week, but had not received official confirmation from the UAE or the Foreign Office.

"I no longer know what to do to get Matt out of prison in the UAE," she added.

"I am calling on the UK government to clarify publicly that Matt is innocent of the charges and that there have been many falsehoods said about him.

"It is the duty of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to protect their citizens abroad.

"This horrifying situation has been going on for far too long."

Ms Tejada claimed her husband had not received "appropriate medical care and attention, especially in regard to his mental health" during his time in solitary confinement.

"Since he was detained he has only ever been granted two consular visits which is in direct violation of his rights."

She described Mr Hedges, who was researching the impact of the Arab Spring on the UAE's foreign policy and security strategy, as "a man of integrity and principle".

The Foreign Office said it was providing support, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had raised "a number of concerns" about the case with his UAE counterpart.