Tyne & Wear

Student Matthew Hedges appears in UAE court on spying charge

Daniela Tejada with her husband Matthew Hedges Image copyright Daniela Tejada
Image caption Daniela Tejada has repeatedly rejected suggestions her husband, Matthew Hedges, is a spy

A British academic accused of spying by the United Arab Emirates has appeared in court.

Matthew Hedges, a 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.

In a short hearing in the UAE, Mr Hedges' lawyer requested an adjournment and the next hearing was scheduled for 21 November.

He denies spying for the UK government.

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

His family said he had been researching the impact of the Arab Spring on the UAE's foreign policy and security strategy when he was arrested.

Image copyright Daniela Tejada
Image caption More than 100 academics from around the world have signed a petition demanding the release of Mr Hedges

Mr Hedges' wife, Daniela Tejada, of Exeter, has previously said he 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."

However, in a statement released earlier the UAE government said it had carried out a welfare review which concluded he had been provided with "constant medical attention and psychological care".

Mohammed Obaid Al Zaabi, director of the Department of the Foreign Nationals Affairs Department, said members of Mr Hedges' family and embassy staff "were given access to him on several occasions in accordance with UAE laws and regulations".

He was able to contact family and legal staff by phone, his statement said, and had been provided with books and reading materials of his choice.

Now his trial was under way he is being accommodated in a "lower security remand centre".

He said Mr Hedges' right to a fair trial was "guaranteed" by the UAE constitution, which presumes people are "innocent until proven otherwise".

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