Matthew Hedges: British student gets life sentence for ‘spying’
A British PhD student has been sentenced to life in prison in the UAE after being found guilty of spying for overseas agencies.
Matthew Hedges, 31, strongly denies the charges, maintaining that he was conducting academic fieldwork in the country.
In a session that lasted ‘no more than five minutes’, according to family members present, Abu Dhabi’s Court of Appeals found the Durham PhD student guilty of “spying for or on behalf of” the UK government.
A family spokesperson said that Hedges did not have his lawyer present during the brief hearing.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “disappointed” by the verdict and warned that the ruling would have “repercussions on the relationship between our two countries.”
Hedges has 30 days to appeal the verdict.
In a statement, the Abu Dhabi court said: "The Federal Appeals Court of Abu Dhabi sentenced Matthew Hedges, 31, to life imprisonment after being convicted of spying on the UAE and providing sensitive security and intelligence information to third parties."
The court also ruled that he would be deported from the country after the execution of the sentence and would be charged the costs of the legal case.
"The court ordered the confiscation of all his equipment, devices, research and studies.”
Hedges, who is originally from Exeter, was seized at Dubai airport in May as he attempted to leave the country following a two-week research trip for his doctoral thesis on Emirati security and foreign policies after the Arab Spring.
He went on to be held in solitary confinement for five months before he was eventually charged.
His case has sparked outrage from the educational community, with over 600 academics across five continents signing an open letter demanding his immediate and unconditional release.