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UAE charges British student with ‘spying’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A file photo of British student Matthew Hedges and his wife, Daniela Tejada

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has charged a British Ph.D. student with “spying,” five months after he was detained and reportedly held in solitary confinement in the Persian Gulf Arab country.

Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old who was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the 2011 uprisings in dictatorially-ruled Arab countries, was arrested at Dubai airport on May 5 as he was leaving the country following a research trip.

“The Attorney General of United Arab Emirates... confirmed today that Mr. Matthew Hedges, a British Citizen, has been charged with spying for and on behalf of a foreign State, jeopardizing the military, economy, and political security of the UAE,” the government said in a statement on Monday.

It was not immediately clear what foreign state Hedges had been charged with spying for.

The attorney general, Hamad al-Shamsi, claimed the charges were “based on legal evidence and findings from investigations that were carried out by the public prosecution.”

He also claimed that Hedges had been posing as a researcher to cover his activities, alleging that the charges were backed by evidence gathered by investigators from his electronic devices.

The attorney general did not reveal a trial date, but Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, said she had been told his trial would resume on October 24.

Last week, Hedges appeared at a court in the capital, Abu Dhabi, after a first hearing earlier this month, but was not informed of any charges, Tejada said.

“Matt was in the UAE to carry out academic research for his Ph.D. 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 added.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said last week that he was “very worried” about Hedges’ fate.

The Muslim Brotherhood factor

Hedges reportedly co-authored an article in an academic journal on the Muslim Brotherhood, which is designated as a “terrorist group” by the UAE government, and the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is a member.

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