British Student Jailed For Life on Charge of Spying in UAE

UPDATE: 27.11.2018 – Matthew Hedges is pardoned with immediate effect – and returns to London.

Matthew Hedges, 31, A British PhD student of Durham has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of spying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a charge that he has always denied.

Mr Hedges was arrested at Dubai Airport on 5th May 2018 after a two week trip to the UAE and charged with trying to procure sensitive information.

Mr Hedges says that he was conducting research for his PhD.

The UAE’s Attorney General Dr. Hamad Al Shamsi said that Mr Hedges spied “on behalf of or for a foreign state”,  while posing as an “academic researcher”.

Both family and university professors of Mr Hedges maintain he was visiting the country to conduct academic research related to his PhD.

Professor Clive Jones, Mr Hedges supervisor said today: The thesis examines the military civilian relationship in United Arab Emirates post Arab spring. There was nothing in the research that he had done which is any way clandestine or covert and what he had done was to identify a number of interviewees, most of whom were known to him before he actually went out and the interviews he was going to conduct with these individuals was therefore going to be used to inform and flesh out the material that he had already gathered.” 

Dr Al Shamsi  said that Mr Hedges had admitted to the charges against him during questioning, which was in line with “evidence and information gained from his electronic devices and investigations conducted by the UAE’s security agencies”.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, “I am deeply shocked and disappointed by the verdict today. I have personally raised the case of Matthew Hedges at the highest levels of the UAE government, including during my visit to Abu Dhabi on 12 November. On that occasion, I spoke to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.

However, today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances. Our consular officials have been in close contact with Matthew Hedges and his family. We will continue to do everything possible to support him.

I have repeatedly made clear that the handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust. I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider.”