A British academic has been charged with spying in the United Arab Emirates, authorities said, five months after he was arrested at the end of a study trip.
Matthew Hedges is to stand trial in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi “on charges of spying for a foreign country, jeopardising the military, political and economic security of the state”, according to a government statement on Monday.
The 31-year-old doctoral student at Durham University, who was researching UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions, was detained at the Dubai airport on May 5.
UAE Attorney General Hamad al-Shamsi said the charges were “based on legal evidence and findings from investigations that were carried out by the public prosecution”, according to local media.
He said Hedges had been posing as a researcher to cover his activities, and said the accusations were backed by “information taken from his electronic devices”.
Hedges’ wife Daniela Tejada, who has visited him once and spoken to him on the phone several times, said her husband has been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest.
Hedges appeared at a court in Abu Dhabi last week, after a first hearing earlier this month, she said, but was not informed of any charges.
She also said that she had been told his trial would resume on October 24.
“Matt was in the UAE to carry out academic research for his PhD. Since he was detained on May 5, 2018, he has only ever been granted two consular visits which is in direct violation of his rights,” she said.
Last week, Tejada said that her husband’s research involved only open resources.
“He’s not disclosed anything … classified or confidential,” she said, adding that Hedges had lived in the UAE for “several years” before he returned to Britain in 2015.
British authorities have said they raised Hedges’ case with the UAE previously.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the AFP news agency last week that he was “very worried” about Hedges’ fate.
According to Durham University’s website, Hedges is a doctoral student in the School of Government and International Affairs whose research interests include civil-military relations, political economy and tribalism.
Last year, he co-authored an article in an academic journal on the Muslim Brotherhood and the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is a member.