Over 100 academics demand review of UK-UAE educational links amid ongoing detention of Matthew Hedges
More than 100 academics have signed an open letter demanding a review of the UK’s educational ties with the UAE in light of the ongoing detention of a British PhD student charged with spying on the gulf state.
Matthew Hedges, who is originally from Exeter, has reportedly been held in solitary confinement for the last five months in Abu Dhabi.
The 31-year-old doctoral student at Durham University was seized at Dubai airport in May as he attempted to leave the country following a two-week fieldwork trip researching the impact of the Arab Spring on Emirati security and foreign policies.
Last week UAE authorities said he had been charged with "spying for and on behalf of a foreign state."
In an open letter, 132 academics from American, British and Spanish universities demanded the release of the young student:
"We call upon the Emirati authorities to release Matthew Hedges without delay”
Professors said the ongoing case “places into question existing and future academic ties between the UK and the UAE."
“British scholars can no longer regard the Emirates as a safe place for legitimate academic research, despite the efforts of the UAE government to encourage educational exchanges between UK institutions and the UAE,” signatories added.
Describing his detention conditions as “degrading and inhumane”, the letter also expressed concerns for Hedges’ mental and physical health, stating that "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.”
Hedges’ wife, Daniella Tejada, has said that Emirati authorities have routinely denied her husband adequate medical care since his arrest.
In a seperate statement, Durham and Exeter universities echoed concerns for Hedges’ welfare and called for his return to the UK:
The statement said:
“Matt is suffering from significant health issues after more than five months in detention. His welfare and right to a fair trial are now the overriding concerns of both Durham and Exeter universities,”
Both universities have informed the court dealing with Hedges’ case that his PhD is “in good standing.”