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UAE pressured detained British student Matthew Hedges 'to spy on UK' Open in fullscreen

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UAE pressured detained British student Matthew Hedges 'to spy on UK'

Matthew Hedges was suffering from daily panic attacks [Twitter]

Date of publication: 5 December, 2018

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During his interrogation, he was told he must steal documents from the UK Foreign Office in return for his freedom
British academic Matthew Hedges, who was detained for 7 months by the UAE, was told by his jailers he must spy on the UK in return for his freedom.

“I started having a panic attack. I was like, ‘How am I supposed to get this information?’”, he told The Times saying he was asked to steal UK Foreign Office documents.

His interrogators had also threatened to take him to a military base to be tortured — leading up to him signing a false confession of allegations of spying on the behalf of the UK government.

It is widely believed that the UAE maintains a network of secret prisons in Yemen and the threat may be a reference to these facilities.

“They started getting more and more aggressive and I’d have panic attacks for two or three days in a row. After all that pressure, I said: ‘OK, fine, whatever, yeah, sure.’”

Hedges was among 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan last week for National Day.

After detaining him at Dubai airport, the UAE accused Hedges of being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent, an accusation strongly denied by the UK and the PhD student's family.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed Abu Dhabi's decision to pardon Hedges, but said that he was still unhappy with the UAE's refusal to rebuke the allegations of spying.

Hedges was detained on 5 May. He was in the country to research the UAE's foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

He was convicted of spying for a foreign country and despite Monday's pardon, Abu Dhabi has still stood by its claim that Hedges was an intelligence agent.

This claim has been strongly denied by the UK, with Hedges' detention leading to a fracas between London and Abu Dhabi - two traditional allies.

Academics and human rights groups in the UK have welcomed Hedges release but called for the UAE to review its treatment of researchers and journalists.

A number of British universities cut ties with the UAE over the case, with Durham University staff being advised not to travel to the Gulf state.

Hedges' detention follows a spate of arrests in the Middle East following the Arab Spring of academics, activists and journalists.

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