UAE appeals court sentences Matthew Hedges to life in prison

Matthew Hedges, 31, sentenced to life for spying and supplying sensitive information to external actors, family says.

    A UAE court has sentenced British academic Matthew Hedges to life in prison after he was convicted of spying and supplying sensitive security information to external actors.

    Abu Dhabi’s Federal Court of Appeal handed down the verdict on Wednesday, according to his family. 

    “We can confirm that he was sentenced to life in prison. The hearing lasted less than five minutes, and his lawyer was not present,” a family spokesperson told AFP news agency.

    Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student at Durham University, was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport after a two-week research visit.

    He was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 when he was detained.

    Hedges was formally charged in October with spying on the Gulf state, where he has been held in solitary confinement for the past six months.

    “I am in complete shock and I don’t know what to do. Matthew is innocent,” said Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, who was present in the courtroom. 

    “The UAE authorities should feel ashamed for such an obvious injustice,” she said in a statement, adding that her husband was shaking when he heard the verdict.

    “I am very scared for Matt. I don’t know where they are taking him or what will happen now. Our nightmare has gotten even worse.”

    British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “deeply shocked and disappointed”, adding that Wednesday’s sentencing was not what London expected from an ally. 

    “Today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances,” Hunt said in a statement. 

    “The handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust.

    “I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider.” 

    A life sentence for a non-Emirati entails a maximum of 25 years in jail and is followed by deportation, according to The National.

    The court ruled that his devices and research would be confiscated, the newspaper reported.

    Emirati authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

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