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British PhD student, 31, has been held in solitary confinement in UAE jail for FIVE MONTHS after being arrested at Dubai airport and accused of spying during Durham University field trip

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Mr Hedges was in Dubai on a research trip studying for his PhDat Durham University © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Mr Hedges was in Dubai on a research trip studying for his PhDat Durham University A British student has been held in solitary confinement in Abu Dhabi for five months over spying claims, it was reported last night.

Matthew Hedges, 31, had been on a research trip in Dubai for his PhD at Durham University. But he was seized at the airport in May when he tried to leave the country, according to The Times.

a man smiling for the camera: PhD student Matthew Hedges, pictured, was arrested by Dubai authorities as he tried to leave the country following a study trip © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited PhD student Matthew Hedges, pictured, was arrested by Dubai authorities as he tried to leave the country following a study trip

Mr Hedges was taken to Abu Dhabi and held in solitary confinement for five months.

During that time he was permitted to phone his mother once and has since had one visit from his wife, Daniela Tejada, who he has been able to call.

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Mr Hedges has also had two visits from Foreign Office officials, but the office has refused to comment on his case or confirm that he was being held.

It did, however, confirm last night that Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his Emarati counterpart had held talks about the case.

a man and a woman standing in front of a mountain: Matthew Hedges, pictured with his wife Daniela Tejada, has only been able to see her once since he was detained in May © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Matthew Hedges, pictured with his wife Daniela Tejada, has only been able to see her once since he was detained in May

Yesterday the student was taken to the UAE’s state security court for a hearing and allowed to speak to a lawyer.

No charges were outlined and the case was allegedly adjourned to October 24.

The exact nature of Mr Hedges’s alleged crime has not been made clear.

a group of people standing in a room: Matthew Hedges, 31, was arrested on suspicion of spying as he attempted to leave Dubai Airport, file photograph © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Matthew Hedges, 31, was arrested on suspicion of spying as he attempted to leave Dubai Airport, file photograph

However, colleagues believe he was accused of spying for Qatar, which the UAE says is working to undermine it.

His wife Ms Tejada, 27, told the Times: ‘We all know that is not true.’ She said that her husband is unharmed physically but suffering from panic attacks and depression.

‘It was evident he was on medication. He was constantly shaking. He clearly did not expect to see me He seemed to be very cautious about what he said and what he didn’t say, which leads me to think he might have been coerced into saying or not saying certain things’, she added.

Jeremy Hunt wearing a suit and tie: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, pictured, has raised Mr Hedges' case with Emirati authorities © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, pictured, has raised Mr Hedges' case with Emirati authorities

‘It breaks my heart that we have been married for nearly two years and only been able to spend four months together,’ she added. ‘I just want him back..’ Ms Tejada, who met Mr Hedges at Exeter University, said his PhD was about Emirati security policies after the Arab Spring.

He grew up partly in Dubai and worked there before his research, so was fully aware of the sensitivity of the subject.

Mr Hedges has previously published a journal titled, ‘The GCC and the Muslim Brotherhood: What Does the Future Hold? Middle East Policy’ and is interested in Middle Eastern politics, his university staff profile suggests.

His confinement has raised concerns among academics about the freedom of researchers to operate in different countries.

Links have been drawn between this recent case and that of Italian-born Giulio Regeni, the Cambridge University PhD researcher was killed in Cairo for studying the Egyptian trade movement.

Kristian Ulrichsen, an associate fellow at Chatham House, said that the case ‘puts the UAE on a par with Iran, Egypt and Turkey.’ The Foreign Office said: ‘Our staff are supporting a British man following his detention in the UAE. We are assisting his family and remain in close contact with the local authorities. The foreign secretary has personally raised his case with his Emirati counterpart.’ 

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