British academic held in UAE is a man of principle, wife says

The wife of a British academic arrested five months ago in the United Arab Emirates has responded to reports that he will go on trial for spying by saying he is a man of principle with an “impeccable track record”.

Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student at Durham University who is from Exeter, was reportedly taken into custody at Dubai airport on May 5 after flying in to interview sources about the country’s foreign policy and security strategy.

His wife Daniela Tejada, 27, said she was concerned about his mental health as he has been held in solitary confinement since then.

She has seen reports that he will go on trial for spying and will appear in court next week, but has not received official confirmation.

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada
Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada

In a statement she said: “I have not been sent any official indication from the UAE nor the FCO (Foreign Office) that Matt was taken to court today.

“As his wife I have been informed that his trial is going to resume on Wednesday October 24.

“I have not received an official translation of the statement from the UAE Attorney General apparently published today.

“What I can confirm is that my husband Matt has not received appropriate medical care and attention, especially in regard to his mental health.

“Matt has been kept in solitary confinement for over five months.

“Matt does not speak Arabic and is therefore unable to communicate fully with the court-appointed lawyer, who he has only met once, at his court hearing last week.

“Matt was in the UAE to carry out academic research for his PhD.

“Since he was detained on May 5 2018 he has only ever been granted two consular visits which is in direct violation of his rights.

“Matt is a man of integrity and principle. He has a brilliant academic mind and an impeccable track record.

“He is kind and caring and greatly loved and respected. Please send him home.”

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is understood to have personally raised Mr Hedges’ case with his UAE counterpart.

British officials have visited Mr Hedges twice, although he is said to have been prevented from discussing his case with them.

According to a profile on the Durham University website, Mr Hedges’ research includes Middle Eastern politics, the changing nature of war, civil-military relations and tribalism.