British scholar jailed in UAE released on bail

Matthew Hedges, 31, in solitary confinement for the past six months, is accused of spying for a foreign government.

    Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada [Family handout via AFP]
    Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada [Family handout via AFP]

    A British academic charged with espionage in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been temporarily released until his court date next month. 

    Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old doctoral student at Durham University, was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport after a two-week research visit. He was formally charged this month with spying on the Gulf state, where he has been held in solitary confinement for the past six months.

    The UAE's Federal Court of Appeal last week postponed hearing his case until November 21 to re-examine the evidence.

    The BBC reported that Hedges was released on bail without his passport, was ordered to wear a surveillance bracelet on his ankle and has been told to remain in the UAE until his next court appearance on November 21.

    "I of course welcome this development," said his wife Daniela Tejada in a statement. "However, I cannot allow myself to get too excited by this information as Matt is not fully free yet."  

    Last year, Hedges co-authored an article in an academic journal on the Muslim Brotherhood and the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is a member.

    The UAE is a tourism and trade hub in the Middle East, but tolerates little public criticism of its ruling families or policies and staunchly opposes the ideology of the Brotherhood.

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    'Monitoring developments'

    A UAE government spokesperson could immediately be reached for comment outside working hours.

    A spokeswoman for Britain's foreign office in London said: "We are monitoring developments closely and have made the Emirati authorities aware of all our concerns. We continue to do everything we can for Matthew and his family."

    The UAE's attorney general has said Hedges was charged with spying for a foreign state, without naming it, and jeopardising the military, economic and political security of the country.

    More than 120 academics from around the world have issued a petition urging UAE authorities to release him.

    SOURCE: News agencies