The UAE’s ambassador to London will give a statement at 10:00 regarding the imprisonment of British student Matthew Hedges.
On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had “a constructive conversation with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed. I believe and trust he’s working hard to resolve the situation ASAP. We’ve a close partnership with UAE which will help us take things forward”.
UK media report various theories about how and why Durham PhD candidate Hedges was sentenced to life imprisonment and British diplomats were unable to secure his release. Senior Whitehall insiders have told the Telegraph that the Foreign Secretary upset two crown princes during his visit last week to the UAE by “lecturing” them on human rights.
The UAE believe that Hedges is an MI6 spy and the Times reports that the UAE had tried to resolve the case via intelligence channels but the UK Government refused as they feared it would be interpreted as an admission that Hedges was an MI6 agent. BICOM CEO James Sorene, CEO told the Telegraph that the UAE’s “intelligence services have wide reach and their sense of spying would be a very broad interpretation. Ask the wrong things in the wrong way and it can potentially go very wrong quickly”.
Abdulla Al Naqbi, head of the Department of Legal Affairs for the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said yesterday that the court had been presented with information found on Hedges’ laptop and phone as well as a signed confession. Hedges family said he was held in solitary confinement for five months and refused access to a lawyer for six weeks during which time he was forced to sign a confession in Arabic that he didn’t understand.
Naqbi added that the case was heard by three judges in the security division of the Higher Federal Court, who met four times. “There were further hearings to consider the arguments of the prosecution and defence on October 10 and 24. Representatives from the British Embassy were present. The final session on November 21 was to announce a verdict and pass a sentence. The judges had made this clear in their previous session. It is normal and to be expected that such hearings are brief,” he added.
Daniela Tejada, Hedges’s wife, met with the Foreign Secretary on Thursday and thanked him for his support. She said: “As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly difficult time for myself, for the rest of Matt’s family and friends, but especially for Matt, who is an innocent victim in all this.”
The UAE’s Foreign Ministry said it was “determined to protect its important strategic relationship with a key ally” and that both sides “hope to find an amicable solution”. It added that convicts’ families could apply for clemency.