UK launches investigation into UAE detention of PhD student
The UK Foreign Office (FCO) has launched an investigation into how the department handled the case of Matthew Hedges, a British academic detained for seven months in the UAE last year and subsequently convicted on spying charges.
While Hedges was later pardoned and allowed to return home, the academic and his wife, Daniela Tejada, have submitted a legal complaint against the FCO alleging the government did not do enough to affect Hedges' release.
They also said the FCO is still letting them down by failing to help Hedges clear his name.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, acknowledged "we don't always get things right".
For that reason, Hunt said, he had asked the FCO to launch an independent investigation into its treatment of the case.
"The important thing is that we got Matthew out," he said.
"There was an injustice, we made an intervention, we were prepared to put our relationship with the UAE, which is an ally of the UK, on the line, because we said a British citizen has not been fairly treated. And we got him home."
Tejada hit back at Hunt's claims that the FCO had been "very effective" in dealing with Hedges' case.
"I beg to differ. It took them seven months to get Matt's release and that took a lot of public pressure and a lot of battling from my side for them to eventually intervene on Matt's behalf," she told The Guardian.
Hedges was detained in May last year while researching the UAE's foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.
He was held in solitary confinement for months and, accused of being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent, sentenced to life in prison on November 21.
Hedges has said he was threatened with torture will in prison.
He claims his treatment in detention has left him dependent on medication and has "strained" his relationship with his wife.
Five days after being sentenced for "spying for a foreign country", the academic was pardoned by UAE authorities five days later.
Hedges and Tejada do not want compensation from the FCO, she said.
Hedges is still a convicted spy in the UAE, although he was able to walk free.
"He is a falsely convicted spy and that is something he has to carry with him every day of his life," she explained, calling on the FCO to pressure the UAE to clear Hedges' name.
The couple are also seeking the help of the United Nations in clearing his name, Tejada added.