Durham student jailed for life in UAE for ‘spying’ pardoned
The British PhD student who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on charges of spying has been pardoned and is now back in the UK.
Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old student at Durham University, was arrested at Dubai airport in May and accused of spying for and on behalf of a foreign state [the UK]—which both he and the UK government firmly denied—following a research trip in the country.
He was pardoned earlier this week ahead of the country's Nation Day anniversary, a time when large numbers of prisoners are traditionally pardoned by UAE rulers.
Mr. Hedges is now back in the UK with his wife Daniela (see below), who he has thanked for being 'so brave and strong; seeing her and my family after this ordeal is the best thing that could have happened.'
Thanks for collectively helping me to bring back my husband. We’ve been through hell and back and would really appreciate having some space to catch up on much-needed rest. Kindly asking you to please respect our privacy and our families’ - they too deserve your consideration. pic.twitter.com/m3hGZrq3TX
— Daniela Tejada (@dtejadav) November 27, 2018
After his arrest in May, Mr. Hedges was reportedly held in solitary confinement for five months. His wife said his rights were being ‘violated on a daily basis’.
'He is just absolutely terrified at the idea of having to spend the rest of his life behind bars for an offence he hasn’t committed. His panic attacks have become worse than they were before, however, he did say he has access to a doctor.'
Mr. Hedges' trial caused much controversy; his family said that a ‘lawyer was not in court on Wednesday to represent him and the trial lasted just five minutes.’ Furthermore, prosecutors claimed he had confessed to spying by signing a document, though it was revealed that the document was written in Arabic, a language Mr. Hedges can neither read nor write.
Matthew's wife had said the UK Government 'failed' to act appropriately on a number of occasions and that 'they [the government] were putting their interests with the UAE above a British citizen's rightful freedom and welfare.' Indeed, that Mr. Hedges had to spend such a long period of time in solitary confinement and to be sentenced to life imprisonment (unimaginably distressful for both him and his family) before being pardoned brings to question the diplomatic power of the UK Government.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt can be seen welcoming Mr. Hedges back to the country below:
— Foreign Office 🇬🇧 (@foreignoffice) November 26, 2018
According to The Telegraph, Mr. Hedges will now 'attempt to sue his captors for false imprisonment'.