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  1. ITV Report

Durham University academic jailed in the UAE says more needs to be done to clear his name

Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada Photo: Family Photo

A Durham University academic who was jailed on spying charges by the United Arab Emirates has accused the UK's Foreign Office of failing to help him clear his name. Matthew Hedges, originally from Exeter, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Gulf state last year after being accused of working for MI6.

A pardon from the UAE president secured his release in November following a campaign lead by his wife Daniela Tejada and interventions from Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

But Emirati officials continued to call Mr Hedges a spy, an allegation denied by his family and colleagues.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, the 31-year-old revealed his six-month long incarceration has left him coping with sleepless nights, PTSD and reliant on a cocktail of drugs that were fed to him in jail.

Mr Hedges has now filed a formal complaint to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over allegations it did not do enough to secure his release and is not helping to get his conviction overturned.

Mr Hedges and Ms Tejada are also considering taking legal action against the FCO, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Ms Tejada told the newspaper her husband's case as "an injustice" that had "compromised" both their lives.

She said her husband was freed weeks after she spoke to the Press, following months of being told to stay quiet by the Government.

"While finally the Foreign Office did step up and intervene it took them seven months and a lot of private and public pressure for them to take action," she said.

"It is not acceptable that they now pretend that Matt is free and can carry on with his life.

"It is unacceptable the British Government now pretend nothing happened."

Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada. Credit: Family Photo

Mr Hedges had visited the UAE to research its national security strategy as part of his PhD work at Durham University.

He told the Sunday Telegraph that he now struggles to cope in large crowds, finds it hard to concentrate and has difficulty with bright lights, a legacy of his imprisonment.

"There are flashbacks and nightmares," he said.

His lawyer, Rodney Dixon QC, told the newspaper: "The FCO should be taking all possible steps to clear Matthew's name, especially as he was wrongly convicted by the UAE of being an agent of the UK Government.

"And yet they have flatly refused and left him in the lurch."

Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada Credit: Family Photo

A spokeswoman for the FCO confirmed officials had received Mr Hedges's complaint.

She added: "We are delighted that Matthew was able to return to the UK and reunite with his loved ones, after his ordeal.

"As the Foreign Secretary has said, our ministers and staff, in the UK and the UAE, worked incredibly hard to support Matthew and his family during his detention and following his release.

"The Foreign Secretary and Foreign Office ministers raised Matthew's case with the UAE authorities at the highest levels, including with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, stressing the need for due process and raising our concerns about his welfare.