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  1. ITV Report

Pardoned Exeter academic files official complaint against UAE after '7 months of hell'

Matthew Hedges travelled to the UAE to carry out research for his PhD thesis. Credit: PA images

A pardoned academic from Exeter has filed an official complaint against the United Arab Emirates after he spent almost seven months in solitary confinement and was sentenced to life in prison there.

Matthew Hedges was accused of spying in the country in May 2018 and forced to spend almost seven months in solitary confinement.

He has now filed an official complaint against the UAE with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for having his human rights abused and being unlawfully convicted.

Mr Hedges was sentenced to life in prison after spending almost seven months in solitary confinement. Credit: PA images

Matthew Hedges: what happened?

  • May 5 2018: The academic is reportedly taken into custody at Dubai airport after travelling to the UAE to interview sources for a PhD thesis.
  • October 10: An Abu Dhabi court hears Mr Hedges’ case, but adjourns it.
  • October 11: Mr Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, calls on UAE officials to “admit that they’ve made a mistake” and to release her husband.
  • October 19: He is said to be suffering from “significant health issues” after spending more than five months in solitary confinement.
  • October 29: Mr Hedges is released on bail.
  • November 21: He is sentenced to life imprisonment in a five-minute hearing at an Abu Dhabi court.
  • November 25: Mr Hunt has “constructive” talks with his UAE counterpart over the fate of Mr Hedges.
  • November 26: Mr Hedges is pardoned in the UAE, as Emirati officials show a video of him saying he is a captain in MI6.

The PhD student's complaints include "prolonged solitary confinement", "psychological torture" and "physical harm".

He also claims the UK Foreign Office failed to provide enough support, which, "continues to negatively affect his ability to recover from the human rights abuses that he suffered".

Mr Hedges, who was studying at Durham University at the time, was detained at Dubai Airport on 5 May 2018.

He had travelled to the UAE to interview sources about the country's foreign policy and security strategy.

During his time in solitary confinement, Mr Hedges' wife fought for her husband's release and condemned the UK Foreign Office for its handling of the case.

Daniela Tejada led a campaign to free her husband and repeatedly called on the government to deny that Mr Hedges was spying in the country.

Daniela Tejada fought for her husband's release and criticised those handling the case. Credit: David Mirzoeff/PA

On several occasions concerns were raised about the PhD student's mental and physical health while he was being held in detention.

After returning to the UK Mr Hedges told how the ordeal at the hands of interrogators in the country felt like psychological "torture".

He told The Times: “I was never physically tortured, but it was psychological, and it felt like torture".

He also told the paper he was questioned for up to 15 hours a day and was forced to wear ankle cuffs.

What's in the official complaint?

  • Mr Hedges was held in solitary confinement throughout his detention.
  • He was reportedly subjected to "degrading and inhuman treatment", which included threats of torture and not being allowed to shower for weeks.
  • Mr Hedges was allegedly forced to take drugs such as Xanax, which he is now dependent on.
  • He was never adequately informed of the charges against him and was denied any effective legal representation.
  • He was given a Presidential pardon but his conviction has never been overturned.

The academic, who is originally from Exeter, said he has filed the complaint so there is an "official record" that he's innocent.

My nightmare did not come to an end the day that I was released; I can’t bring myself to describe the daily bouts of anxiety, sleepless nights and deep episodes of depression that have resulted from my 7 months of hell in the UAE.

– Matthew Hedges

He reiterated he was "simply doing legitimate academic research" and now has to "carry the weight of the torture" he endured and the false conviction he was given.