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  1. ITV Report

‘He is an innocent victim in all of this’: Wife of jailed Briton Matthew Hedges thanks public for support

The wife of a British academic jailed for life in the United Arab Emirates on an allegation of spying has thanked the public for their support.

Daniela Tejada reiterated the innocence of 31-year-old PhD student Matthew Hedges, after meeting with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday.

“He is an innocent victim in all of this. We appreciate all the positive support for Matt – you cannot imagine what he has been through.”

“Seeing him shaking in court after being handed a life sentence and being made to leave was beyond heartbreaking. We didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

“I really appreciate the Foreign Secretary taking the time to meet me at this crucial point of mine and Matt’s life.

“He has assured that he and his team are doing everything in their power to get Matt free and return him home to me.”

Before the meeting, Ms Tejada had condemned the Foreign Office over their handling of the case.

Mr Hunt has threatened the UAE with "serious diplomatic consequences" if Mr Hedges is not freed, saying he has seen "absolutely no evidence" to support the charge.

Ms Tejada said the last six months have been the 'worst of her life'. Credit: PA

Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the Foreign Office on the show for working “behind the scenes” to support Mr Hedges, with Mr Hunt appealing personally to the Crown Prince on November 12.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation released a statement on Thursday hoping for a positive resolution.

“The UAE is determined to protect its important strategic relationship with a key ally. Officials from both countries have discussed the matter regularly over recent months. Both sides hope to find an amicable solution to the Matthew Hedges case.”

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada. Credit: PA

Tory MP Johnny Mercer, who condemned the academic’s jailing and called for the Government to be resilient.

He wrote on Twitter: "This is ridiculous. Our Defence assistance, mentoring and intelligence relationships alone with this country should preclude absurd things like this happening. From a friend and partner, simply unacceptable.

"Consequences must be immediate until he is released."

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Mr Hunt said the UK "will do everything we can to get him home".

"We see absolutely no evidence for any of the charges laid against him. We’re very concerned for his welfare," he told Sky News.

"The UAE is supposed to be a friend and ally of Britain’s. We’ve given them repeated assurances about Matthew.

"If we can’t resolve this there are going to be serious diplomatic consequences, because this is totally unacceptable."

Mr Hunt met with the UAE ambassador to the UK Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui on Thursday morning, when they had a "very frank" conversation about Mr Hedge's case, the Foreign Secretary said.

The Middle Eastern studies specialist was arrested at Dubai Airport on May 5.

A family representative said he had since been held in solitary confinement for more than five-and-a-half months, during which his "mental and physical health seriously deteriorated".

Lawyer and human rights campaigner David Haigh said he was encouraged by Mr Hunt’s public stance, but warned securing Mr Hedges’ release quickly was important.

He told the BBC’s World Tonight: "It’s urgent. I know what he will be going through. He’ll be in some form of national security jail and it’s horrific there."

Mr Haigh, a former managing director of Leeds United, said he was tortured and raped while he was held in a Dubai jail over a fraud conviction that was later overturned.

Former Leeds United director David Haigh said the UAE is not safe to visit as a tourist. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA

He warned Mr Hedges’ ordeal and other similar cases showed the UAE "isn’t a safe country to go to as a tourist".

"Nothing’s changed. It’s getting worse and worse and worse, and why is it getting worse? Because no-one is doing anything about it. The governments are ignoring it," Mr Haigh said.

Theresa May said she was "deeply disappointed and concerned" by Mr Hedges’ jailing and told MPs the UK "will continue to press this matter at the highest level with the Emiratis".

Matthew Hedges with his wife, Daniela Tejada. Credit: PA

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Tory MP Crispin Blunt told Mrs May she should make clear to the UAE that "if he is not released, I don’t see why we should be committed to their defence".

Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor of Durham University, said he was "devastated" by the sentence.

He said: "There has been no information given on what basis Matt was handed this sentence and no reason to believe that Matt was conducting anything other than legitimate academic research."

A Foreign Office spokesman did not say what form any possible diplomatic consequences could take, but said a number of options are available.