After horrific jailing, UK academic Matthew Hedges slams UAE general's bid to head Interpol

After horrific jailing, UK academic Matthew Hedges slams UAE general's bid to head Interpol
The jailed academic experienced torture and solitary confinement during his detention in the UAE, Hedges says.
3 min read
06 October, 2020
Hedges was jailed in the UAE in 2018 [Twitter]
A British academic who was jailed in the UAE on charges of spying has slammed a bid by a former Emirati police chief - who allegedly oversaw his detention - to head Interpol.

Matthew Hedges has appealed to Interpol member states, who are be eligible to vote in December's election, to not consider Major General Nasser Ahmed Al-Raisi's as the organisation's next leader, due to the UAE's poor human rights record.

"If Saudi Arabia, Russia, China or Iran tried to run for the Interpol presidency they would be rightly condemned. Just look at the UAE's record on freedom of speech, judicial standards, the independence of the judiciary and the legislature," Hedges told The Daily Express.

"Yet the Emirates have been able to craft quite a positive face in order to get people in these key positions - and the silence from the international community is deafening."

Hedges has first-hand experience of the terrible conditions inside UAE jails, after being detained in 2018 during a doctoral research trip to the Gulf state.

During his detention, Hedges said he was kept in solitary confinement and subject to conditions that amount to torture.

"I was held in solitary confinement for the whole of my incarceration and forced to sign a confession," he told the UK daily.

"The room where I was held had no windows and was soundproof. I'd get migraines because the noise of the light, which was bright and never turned off, bounced off the walls."

He was sentenced to life in prison by an Abu Dhabi court on charges of espionate, in a trial viewed as "unfair" by human rights organisations, while the verdict was condemned by the British government.

Hedges was released after six-months when the UAE government issued a pardon, but he still maintains his innocence and is recovering from his ordeal in prison.

"To say I'm disappointed that he is even being considered would be an understatement," he said.

"The UAE must not be allowed to have this presidency. It would undermine everything Interpol is supposed to stand for."

Al-Raisi is already a member of Interpol's executive committee, but his promotion to president of the body has caused concern among human rights groups.

The former UAE police chief is the current front-runnner for the position. Abu Dhabi has been accused of buying influence on the body with a $54 million donation to Interpol in 2017.

"This is another attempt by a despotic country to get their person elected as the president of Interpol," British international crime barrister Ben Keith told The Daily Telegraph. 

"The money is there, the power base is there, they are hosting the assembly. They have effectively tried to buy their way into Interpol. This is the best chance they have and their candidate is clearly the front runner."

Voting for the new head of Interpol will be decided in December and the winner will need to secure a two-thirds majority of Interpol members, a task that analysts say Al-Raisi appears able to achieve.

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