Wife of British student jailed in UAE says the UK Foreign Office needs to step up.
Wife of British student jailed in UAE says the UK Foreign Office needs to step up.

Jailed UK student’s wife ‘fears for his safety’

The wife of the British student who has been jailed for life in the United Arab Emirates for "spying" will do "whatever it takes" to free him amid fears for his safety.

Daniela Tejada, 27, witnessed her husband Matthew Hedges, 31, break down, "shaking" at an Abu Dhabi court, as he was sentenced on Wednesday during a five-minute hearing.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4, she recalled sitting around 20-metres away from him in the courtroom, looking at him appearing "just as distraught" as she was feeling, The Sun reports.

"He was very, very scared when he was standing in front of the judge. I asked him to look at me to see if he was feeling too nervous, [and] he tried to. But then he was asked to face the judge," she said.

Although Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has planned to ramp up diplomatic pressure towards the UAE, Ms Tejada said "[It will only be] enough to get my husband back, no matter what it takes. He deserves it."

Disregarding calls to clarify whether she is satisfied with Mr Hunt's latest approach, she added: "I will only be satisfied when Matt is back. He deserves this, he's innocent. His friends and family know it. His colleagues know it. And most importantly, the UAE knows it."

Describing the moment his sentence was announced, Ms Tejada said her husband "started shaking".

"He actually had to ask to double-check if he heard right," she said.

Ms Tejada said she is now "very scared for Matt" as she doesn't know where he will be taken and what will happen next.

"I am in complete shock and I don't know what to do.

"This has been the worst six months of my life, let alone for Matt, who was shaking when he heard the verdict. The UAE authorities should feel ashamed for such an obvious injustice.

"I am very scared for Matt. I don't know where they are taking him or what will happen now. Our nightmare has gotten even worse."

Ms Tejada's public comments come after she landed at Heathrow Airport, following MP Ben Bradshaw's calls for her immediate return, amid safety fears.

On Twitter, Labour MP Mr Bradshaw said: "It is unbelievable. I went to see the UAE ambassador and he said Matthew had made a mistake and been naive, and that it would all be sorted out, so this has come as a complete shock.

"The diplomatic strategy of the Foreign Office has failed. It is quite clear that the softly-softly behind-the-scenes talking to the Emiratis has not worked.

"We have very close economic, military and educational ties with the Emiratis, and we need to start using those to ensure my innocent constituent can come home."

Mr Bradshaw added that the "full weight of the British Government needs to come down in support".

"This whole case has been handled appallingly from the very beginning with no one taking Matthew's case seriously."

Mr Hedges, a Middle Eastern studies specialist from Durham University, visited the country to research his PhD thesis and was arrested at Dubai Airport on May 5.

His family's representative said he was held in solitary confinement for over five and a half months, during which his "mental and physical health seriously deteriorated".

"We see absolutely no evidence for any of the charges laid against him. We're very concerned for his welfare," he told Sky News.

"The UAE is supposed to be a friend and ally of Britain's. We've given them repeated assurances about Matthew.

"If we can't resolve this there are going to be serious diplomatic consequences, because this is totally unacceptable."

Authorities in the UAE has alleged Mr Hedge's research for his thesis on security after the Arab Spring was a "cover" for carrying out surveillance for a "foreign agency."

A life sentence in the UAE includes a maximum of 25 years in jail, however Mr Hedges has the right to appeal within the next 30 days.

He will be in jail until his appeal and the authorities will also confiscate all his equipment, devices and research.

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply disappointed and concerned” by Mr Hedges’ jailing. Picture: Getty
British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply disappointed and concerned” by Mr Hedges’ jailing. Picture: Getty

 

Lawyer and human rights campaigner David Haigh said he was encouraged by Mr Hunt's public stance, but warned that securing Mr Hedges' release quickly was important.

"It's urgent. I know what he will be going through. He'll be in some form of national security jail and it's horrific there," he told the BBC's World Tonight.

Theresa May said she was "deeply disappointed and concerned" by Mr Hedges' jailing and told MPs the UK "will continue to press this matter at the highest level with the Emiratis".

Mr Hunt was "urgently seeking a call with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed", the Prime Minister added.

Mr Hedges was released on bail in late October, but had been held in solitary confinement for five months before that.

The UAE said he was charged with spying for a foreign state and jeopardising the military and political security of the country.

 

A family representative said Mr Hedges was held in solitary confinement for over five and a half months, during which his “mental and physical health seriously deteriorated”.
A family representative said Mr Hedges was held in solitary confinement for over five and a half months, during which his “mental and physical health seriously deteriorated”.

 

Dr John Williams, the head of government and international affairs at Durham University, said the case was "appalling."

"Clearly Matt's innocence is beyond question in this case. As an academic community, as a group of human beings, we are appalled and deeply upset by the terrible sentence and the injustice of the conviction."

A Foreign Office spokesman did not say what form any possible diplomatic consequences could take, but said a number of options are available.

 

This article originally appeared in The Sun and was republished with permission.


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