UAE appeals court sentences Matthew Hedges to life in prison

A United Arab Emirates court has sentenced British academic Matthew Hedges to life in prison after he was convicted of spying and supplying sensitive security information to external actors.

Abu Dhabi’s Federal Court of Appeal handed the verdict on Wednesday, according to a family spokesperson. 

“We can confirm that he was sentenced to life in prison. The hearing lasted less than five minutes, and his lawyer was not present,” the spokesperson told AFP news agency.

Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student at Durham University, was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport after a two-week research visit.

He was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 when he was detained

Hedges was formally charged in October with spying on the Gulf state, where he has been held in solitary confinement for the past six months.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “deeply shocked and disappointed”, adding that Wednesday’s sentencing was not what London expected from an ally. 

“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 in a statement. 

“The handling of this case by the UAE authorities 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.” 

More to follow….

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