Concerns over health of British academic accused of spying by UAE

A British academic who has been accused of spying in the United Arab Emirates after travelling to Dubai to conduct research is said to be suffering from “significant health issues” after spending five months in solitary confinement.

Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student at Durham University, flew to the UAE on May 5 to interview sources about the country’s foreign policy and security strategy.

He was detained at Dubai Airport and his family say he has been held in solitary confinement since then.

In a joint statement Durham and Exeter universities said they are “deeply concerned” about Mr Hedges’s welfare.

The statement said: “Matt is suffering from significant health issues after more than five months in detention. His welfare and right to a fair trial are now the overriding concerns of both Durham and Exeter universities.”

Both universities called upon the authorities in the UAE and the UK to “treat Matt with proper fairness and to make every effort to return Matt to his wife, Daniela, and his family and friends”.

They added that the court has been assured of Mr Hedges’s status as a PhD student “in good standing”.

Matthew Hedges detention
Matthew Hedges is a PhD student at Durham University

Mr Hedges completed a Masters degree in Middle East Studies at Exeter, and began working on his PhD at Durham in 2013.

The universities said: “Matt’s thesis is nearing completion and was carried out in full accordance with Durham University’s research and ethics procedures.

“His academic colleagues speak highly of his work, noting both his diligence and level of scholarship, as well as his undoubted passion and care for the Arab Gulf and its people.”

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