Tyne & Wear

Matthew Hedges: Release UAE 'spy' accused, academics demand

Daniela Tejada and Matthew Hedges Image copyright Daniela Tejada
Image caption Durham student Matthew Hedges has been held in solitary confinement for five months, according to his wife

More than 100 academics from around the world have signed a petition demanding the release of a student charged with spying in the United Arab Emirates.

Matthew Hedges, a 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 intervene.

Academics from America, Britain and Spanish universities have demanded his immediate release.

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

He has been accused of "spying for and on behalf of a foreign state", the UAE government said.

'Degrading and inhumane'

A family spokeswoman said he had been in the country to interview sources about the country's foreign policy and security strategy.

In their letter, the 123 academics said the case raised concerns for the safety of colleagues carrying out legitimate research.

It also said that they believed Mr Hedges' detention was "degrading and inhumane".

The letter said: "Matthew's physical and mental health have deteriorated.

"He was forced to sleep on the floor for the first four and a half months after his arrest, denied access to regular showers and prevented from receiving any reading material that might help allay his mental anguish."

It continued: "We call upon the Emirati authorities to release Matthew Hedges without delay.

"Not only is he an innocent man being held unjustly, but it also places into question existing and future academic ties between the UK and the UAE."

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

Ms Tejada, who lives in Exeter, said she had seen reports that her husband would be tried for spying.

Among those to sign the letter are Prof Anoush Ehteshami, of Durham University, Prof Marc Valeri, of the University of Exeter and Prof Ferran Izquierdo Brichs, of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Mr Hedges was researching the impact of the Arab Spring on the UAE's foreign policy and security strategy when he was arrested.

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