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UAE sentences British PhD student Matthew Hedges to life for 'spying'

Matthew Hedges has been detained since May [Twitter]

Date of publication: 21 November, 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 six months.
A British PhD student accused of spying in the United Arab Emirates has been sentenced to life in prison.

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.

The Durham University student was held in solitary confinement for six months before authorities charged him in October with "spying for a foreign country, jeopardising the military, political and economic security of the state". 

Attorney general Hamad al-Shamsi 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".

Hedges appeared in court on Wednesday in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi, his wife Daniela Tejada tweeted.

Emirati commentator Abdulkhaleq Abdulla posted on Twitter that Hedges was sentenced to life imprisonment and has 30 days to appeal the verdict. 

Human Rights Watch previously condemned the UAE for detaining the academic and denying him due process rights.

"The UAE invests considerable time and money painting itself as a progressive and tolerant country, but Hedges' case shows the face of an autocratic government with a fundamental lack of respect for the rule of law," Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at the rights group, said.

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.

Read more: As the UAE's authoritarianism grows, Western governments remain silent

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