British academic accused of spying in the UAE sentenced to life behind bars, in hearing that lasted 'less than five minutes'
Hedges, a few weeks before the sentencing, had said he was being kept in solitary confinement, which left him suicidal after prison conditions gave him anxiety and panic attacks
A British academic, 31-year-old Matthew Hedges, has been sentenced to life in prison after being accused of spying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Hedges, a specialist in Middle Eastern studies at Durham University, reportedly appeared in court in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday for a hearing which lasted "less than five minutes", according to reports. The sentencing came nearly six months after his arrest at Dubai Airport.
Hedges, a few weeks before the sentencing, had reportedly said that he was being kept in solitary confinement in the UAE, which left him suicidal after prison conditions gave him severe anxiety and panic attacks.
The academic's wife, Daniela Tajeda, who attended the hearing, wrote about it earlier on Twitter, saying: "Tomorrow, Nov 21, Matt will be appearing in court in Abu Dhabi. Hoping that justice will prevail and my husband will be granted his rightful freedom."
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, released a statement on Wednesday morning, saying he was "deeply shocked" by the life sentence handed to Hedges, which reportedly carries a maximum term of 25 years. Hunt warned of "repercussions" which could arise after the sentencing.
"I am deeply shocked and disappointed. Today's verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances," Hunt said, according to the Daily Mail.
"The handling of this case... will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust. I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider," he added.
Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old student at Durham University who went to UAE to research his PhD thesis, was handed LIFE sentence at Abu Dhabi court in a hearing that lasted less than five minutes, and with no lawyer present https://t.co/kklj6cOg4I— Borzou Daragahi 🖊🗒 (@borzou) November 21, 2018
Hedges, according to The National, was convicted for attempting to procure sensitive information during a trip to the Emirates earlier this year. A life sentence in the UAE includes up to 25 years in prison followed by deportation.
The academic's sentencing was confirmed by his family's spokesperson Nikita Bernardi who said that the hearing "lasted less than five minutes, and his lawyer was not present." Hedges was also ordered to pay legal fees after the sentencing.