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Wife of UK student detained in UAE accuses UK authorities of 'negligence'

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2 weeks 5 days

Wife of UK student detained in UAE accuses UK authorities of 'negligence'

The wife of British student Matthew Hedges, who is on trial in the United Arab Emirates for spying for Britain's intelligence services, accused the UK Foreign Office of negligence.

Hedges, 31, was arrested in Dubai on 5 May and has since been held in solitary confinement. A PhD student at Durham University, Hedges had been conducting interviews on the country's security strategy and foreign policy.

However, due to advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Hedges' family and friends kept his arrest quiet until earlier this month, as they were advised it could negatively affect his situation.

Hedges' wife, Daniela Tejada, told Middle East Eye that since she took the case public, ignoring the advice of the FCO, there had been some improvements in Hedges' prison conditions, such as being allowed a TV and books.

Tejada said that while UK staff in the UAE had been helpful, she had been deeply frustrated by the lack of action in London.

"The FCO are my main point of contact to Matt and the UAE authorities, who I have never been able to speak to. I know that there have been a few representations from the FCO. I'm still unaware what these representations have consisted of," she said.

"I'm keen to think it's most likely still around his welfare, but to be honest I think that much more progress was achieved in the past week or 10 days when the news broke to the public than in the five-and-a-half months that preceded that."

Tejada said that she had been assigned a junior researcher when she first raised the case with the FCO, which she initially accepted, but was unhappy that there had not been a more senior figure assigned as the seriousness of the case became apparent.

"I remember in the first week or two, both myself and the university offered to share a brief on what Matt's research was about, and what the reasons for his visit were, and the case worker actually told me that they didn't need it," she said.

"It became apparent they did - when I spoke to [Minister of State for the Middle East ] Alistair Burt in July, he was shocked that he didn't know what Matt's research was about.

"How can they stand up for one of their citizens if they don't know what they're standing up for? So I think that was a negligent move from the FCO's side."

Tejada emphasised that Hedges, who has been granted only two consular visits and two family visits since his arrest, was innocent of any of the charges levelled against him.

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