UK warns UAE of repercussions over student's life sentence

UK warns UAE of repercussions over student's life sentence
British PhD student Matthew Hedges was sentenced to life imprisonment Wednesday for "spying for a foreign country".
2 min read
21 November, 2018
Matthew Hedges was detained at Dubai aiport on 5 May [Getty]

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned of "repercussions" after a United Arab Emirates court on Wednesday sentenced British student Matthew Hedges to life in jail having convicted him of spying.

"I am deeply shocked and disappointed," said Hunt. "Today's verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances."

The minister warned the UAE that "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.

Hunt said he had personally raised the case at the highest levels of the UAE government, including during a visit to Abu Dhabi on 12 November.

Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student at Durham University in northern England, was researching the UAE's foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

He was detained at Dubai airport on 5 May and reportedly held in solitary confinement until his court appearance. 

Human Rights Watch previously condemned the UAE for detaining the academic and denying him due process rights.

"The UAE invests considerable time and money painting itself as a progressive and tolerant country, but Hedges' case shows the face of an autocratic government with a fundamental lack of respect for the rule of law," Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at the rights group, said.

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