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  1. ITV Report

‘This is a gross misinterpretation of his work’: Wife of jailed academic Matthew Hughes decries ‘shocking’ decision

The wife of a British academic jailed for life in the United Arab Emirates on an allegation of spying has called their decision “a gross misinterpretation of his work.”

Daniela Tejada told ITV News that 31-year-old PhD student Matthew Hedges’ research contained “absolutely no confidential information”.

“Naturally he would have contacts in the defence and security industries – he works in the UAE. He’s worked in the UK, and it’s his area of study, that’s just natural. Naturally, he would have information in the field because again that’s his field of work and study”, she said.

“But, I myself have gone through every single email that he has sent or received since 2013. And I can assure you categorically that there is not a single piece of compromising evidence against him.

“Every piece of information that he has ever handled has been from open sources – many of which have actually been shared by the UAE themselves on media statements and online.

“So it is absolutely shocking to think that they still find that to be compelling evidence.”

Ms Tejada believes it is “essentially similar to journalistic work where you gather different pieces of information from different sources and put them together in one place.

“So I do think that this is just a gross misinterpretation of his work.”

UAE Ambassador Sulaiman Almazroui defended Mr Hedges' trial. Credit: Pool

On Friday, the United Arab Emirates' ambassador to the UK, Sulaiman Almazroui said he hopes “an amicable solution can be reached” as his country considers a clemency request.

“Because of the extremely close partnership with the UK, because of the strength of the relationship, we are hopeful that an amicable solution can be reached,” he said in a statement.

Mr Almazroui added that the case of the Durham University researcher was “extremely serious” and that since the UAE is in a “dangerous neighbourhood... national security must be a top priority”.

He also dismissed claims that Mr Hedges was convicted in a trial which lasted less than five minutes, saying it was “not a show trial” and that three judges had examined “compelling evidence” for a month ahead of the sentencing.

Matthew Hedges has been jailed for up to 25 years on spying charges. Credit: PA

However, this is vehemently denied by Ms Tejada.

In reaction to the ambassador’s comments, she told ITV News: “Initially I was taken aback by the fact he continues to assure that due process has been followed. This wasn’t the case for the first six months.

“Matt was kept in prolonged solitary confinement – didn’t have the right access to medical care and psychiatric care. He was being medicated but that does not constitute care. He did not have access to legal counsel in spite of explicitly asking for it during interrogation process which he described as very tough.

“He had very limited access to consular visits and consular support and this is in direct violation of all international legal standards and human rights. “So I find it no number of hearings or judges accessing a case can make up for this violation of due process.

The UAE has a history of issuing a wave of pardons in anticipation of its national day, which falls on December 2.

The ambassador's comments come a day after Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had "a constructive conversation" with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed and Ms Tejada, on Thursday.

Mr Hunt continued Mr Bin Zayed was "working hard to resolve the situation", and echoed Mr Almazroui's sentiments that the UK has "a close partnership with the UAE which will help us take things forward".

Matthew Hedges and Daniela Tejada. Credit: PA

The Conservative MP earlier said he had seen "absolutely no evidence" to support claims Mr Hedges was spying when he visited Dubai earlier this year, and has threatened "serious diplomatic consequences" if he is not freed.

Mr Hunt had previously said he was surprised that Mr Hedges has been jailed for up to 25 years, a sentence which came despite his discussions with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed a little over a week earlier.

Mr Hedges was arrested at Dubai Airport as he tried to leave the country on May 5, having been in the country to conduct research for his PhD on how the impact of the Arab spring on the UAE’s foreign policy.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor of Durham University where Mr Hedges was studying, has said there is "no reason to believe that Matt was conducting anything other than legitimate academic research".

Mr Hedges has been given 30 days to challenge the court ruling, and Ms Tejada has launched a petition on Change.org which has gathered more than 178,000 signatures.