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British student held in UAE on ‘spying charges’

Matthew Hedges has been held in solitary confinement for five months and is suffering from depression and panic attacks.

Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada have been married nearly two years

A British student is being held in the United Arab Emirates after being accused of spying.

Matthew Hedges, 31, has been in solitary confinement for five months since he was arrested at Dubai’s airport in May.

After his arrest he was taken to Abu Dhabi.

The only communication he was allowed with the outside world were a single phone call to his mother, two visits from Foreign Office officials and one visit from his wife of nearly two years Daniela Tejada.

On Wednesday, he appeared in the country’s state security court and was allowed to speak with a lawyer.

The case was adjourned until 24 October.

The charges against Mr Hedges have not been revealed but his wife said he was completing a PhD on Emirati security policies after the Arab Spring.

He had been in the UAE for research for his course at Durham University.

His colleagues believe he is suspected of spying for Qatar, which has a frosty relationship with the UAE, but Ms Tejada said: “We all know that is not true”.

She told The Times that, despite being physically well, her husband is suffering from depression and panic attacks.

When she saw him in July, he had been “constantly shaking”, she said.

“He seemed to be very cautious about what he said and what he didn’t say, which leads me to think he might have been coerced into saying or not saying things,” she added.

Mr Hedges is being kept in Abu Dhabi, the UAE's federal capital

Mr Hedges spent part of his childhood in Dubai and has also worked there.

Durham University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, said: “We are aware that one of our PhD students, Matt Hedges, has been detained in Abu Dhabi.

“We are seriously concerned about Matt’s welfare and wellbeing and we remain in close contact with his family.”

“We have raised these concerns with the UK Ambassador to the UAE, the Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and local MPs, and we continue to offer our full assistance to efforts to bring Matt home safely and swiftly.”

The university has put a temporary moratorium on all non-UAE national student research travel to UAE until the reason for Mr Hedges’ detention has been established.

A Foreign Office spokesman said “the foreign secretary has also personally raised his case with his Emirati counterpart.” Foreign Office officials are following the case and assisting the family, he added.

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