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News > World

UAE Places British Student in Solitary Confinement for ‘Spying on Qatar’s Behalf’

  • Matthew Hedges, a Durham University PhD scholar was arrested by the UAE on May 5 and is in solitary confinement, says wife Daniela Tejada.

    Matthew Hedges, a Durham University PhD scholar was arrested by the UAE on May 5 and is in solitary confinement, says wife Daniela Tejada. | Photo: Twitter/@DavidJones_now

Published 11 October 2018

"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 things," his wife said. 

Matthew Hedges, a British-born doctoral student, is being held in solitary confinement without charges in the United Arab Emirates according to his wife Daniela Tejada.


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Hedges has been held in the Middle Eastern country since May "without explanation" after a research trip, Tejada explained Thursday. 

Hedges, a 31-year-old doctoral candidate at Durham University, was detained at Dubai International Airport on May 5 after a two-week visit to the country conducting fieldwork for his doctoral thesis on the impact of the UAE's foreign and domestic security strategy.  

"His rights are violated on a daily basis," Tejada said. "I am shocked that more has not been done to get him out," she added, emphasizing that he was visiting the country exclusively for research purposes.

Tejada alleged that during the first month of his arrest, he was denied a shower and made to sleep on the floor. She has been allowed to visit him just once since his arrest.

When she saw him in July, he was "constantly shaking," she said and appeared to be in poor health.

“I am extremely worried about Matt’s mental health and general well-being,” Tejada said.

The United Kingdom's Foreign Office said in a statement: "Our staff is 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 also personally raised his case with his Emirati counterpart."

While the exact nature of the charges against Hedges remains unclear, his colleagues believe he was accused of spying for Qatar.

On Wednesday, he appeared in the country's State Security Court and was allowed to speak with a lawyer. His case was later adjourned to Oct. 24.

Durham University's vice chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge said: "We are aware that one of our Ph.D. students, Matt Hedges, has been detained in Abu Dhabi.

"We are seriously concerned about Matt's welfare and well-being and we remain in close contact with his family."

"We have raised these concerns with the U.K. Ambassador to the UAE, the Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and local MPs, and we continue to offer our full assistance to efforts to bring Matt home safely and swiftly."

Hedges’ research touched on delicate topics, such as the UAE's military and the Saudi-led coalition’s war against rebels in Yemen, a war in which the UAE is a key ally for Saudi Arabia.

Radha Stirling, CEO of the group Detained in Dubai and a leading legal expert on the UAE said: "Matthew's arrest sends a very dangerous signal to the academic community, without whose research and input it will be impossible for policymakers, both within the UAE and in the West, to formulate an informed approach to the region. While the UAE may want to present his arrest as a national security issue, it appears to us more to be a severe curtailment of free speech."

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