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UAE to try British PhD student on charges of 'spying for a foreign country'

Hedges has been detained since May. [Facebook]

Date of publication: 15 October, 2018

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Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student, was detained in May and has been held in solitary confinement in the UAE for five months.

The United Arab Emirates is to try a British PhD student detained in May on charges of spying, local media reported Monday, after London raised concern over his case.

Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old who was researching the UAE's foreign and internal security policies after the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, was detained at Dubai airport on 5 May.

He is to stand trial in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi "on charges of spying for a foreign country, jeopardising the military, political and economic security of the state", attorney general Hamad al-Shamsi said, quoted by local media.

Shamsi, without giving a trial date, said the charges were "based on legal evidence and findings from investigations that were carried out by the public prosecution".

The attorney general claimed Hedges had been posing as a researcher to cover his activities, alleging that the accusations were backed by "information taken from his electronic devices".

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told AFP last week that he was "very worried" about Hedges' fate.

The detainee's wife Daniela Tejada, who has visited him once and spoken to him on the phone several times, said he was expected to appear in court on 24 October.

Her husband, held in solitary confinement, was "a man of integrity and principle. He has a brilliant academic mind... He is kind and caring and greatly loved and respected. Please send him home."

Tejada said last week that his research involved only open resources.

"He's not disclosed anything... classified or confidential," she said, adding that Hedges had lived in the UAE for "several years" before he returned to Britain in 2015.

Earlier this year, a UN report painted a grim picture of the human rights situation in the UAE.

The report condemned arrests and forced disappearances outside the legal framework and the transfer of people to secret prisons under the pretext of being accused of "terrorism".

It added that authorities have used torture to force defendants to confess to the charges against them and deprive them of healthcare.

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