Foreign Office 'deeply concerned' about Durham University academic accused of spying

University student Matthew Hedges and wife Daniela Tejada Credit: Daniela Tejada

The Foreign Office has said it is "deeply concerned" about a British academic accused of spying in the United Arab Emirates after his wife called on the Government to say he was innocent.

Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student at Durham University who is from Exeter, was held at Dubai airport on May 5 after flying in to interview sources about the country's foreign policy and security strategy.

The UAE Attorney General confirmed that Mr Hedges had been "referred to the Court of Appeal to stand trial after being charged with spying for and on behalf of a foreign state, jeopardising the UAE military, economic and political security."

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Mr Hedges has been held in solitary confinement for almost six months, according to his family, and they said they were concerned he will not have a fair trial as he has had limited access to his lawyer.

His wife, Daniela Tejada, 27, has called on the British government to "clarify publicly" that he was not spying and is innocent of the charges.

In response, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said:

Ms Tejada said:

University student Matthew Hedges and wife Daniela Tejada Credit: Family Photo

Amnesty International have backed Ms Tejada's request to the Foreign Office, telling ITV News "they should call for his immediate and unconditional release if he's only detained in relation to his academic work."

Sima Watling said "they should call for him to be treated humanely and they need to put their citizens first."

The group's foreign affairs spokeswoman Polly Truscott said: "

University student Matthew Hedges Credit: Family Photo

Ms Tejada said her husband only met his legal representative for the first time at court last week. She said:

University student Matthew Hedges and wife Daniela Tejada Credit: Family Photo

Ms Tejada's concerns over her husband receiving a fair trial are not without foundation, according to an NGO which specialises in the justice system in the UAE.

Radha Stirling, of Detained in Dubai, told ITV News, "forced confessions are normal. Arbitrary detentions are normal. A trial can last as little as five to 10 minutes and convictions without evidence are standard in the UAE, so if this situation goes through the court process in the UAE, there's absolutely no real chance of a fair trial."

The UAE Attorney General confirmed "that a defence lawyer was appointed to represent him, funded by the state, since he was not able to appoint a lawyer himself; in accordance with UAE constitutional guarantees of his right to a fair, impartial and transparent trial."

According to a profile on the Durham University website, Mr Hedges's research includes Middle Eastern politics, the changing nature of war, civil-military relations and tribalism.