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Wife of British jailed scholar speaks to CNN

The wife of a British jailed academic in the United Arab Emirates on charges of espionage has spoken of her shock at his life sentence and has accused the country of mishandling his case.

Posted: Nov 24, 2018 11:36 AM
Updated: Nov 24, 2018 11:36 AM

The UAE says it is considering a request to pardon Matthew Hedges, the British PhD student handed a life sentence for espionage.

In a statement on Friday, the UAE ambassador to the UK, Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui, said Hedges' family had filed a request for clemency with the Emirati authorities.

Hedges, 31, was sentenced on Thursday after a five-minute hearing, in a development that appeared to take British authorities by surprise.

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office told CNN that they "hope the UAE will now look favorably on the family's request for clemency."

A specialist in Middle Eastern studies at Durham University in England, Hedges was arrested by UAE officials at Dubai International Airport in May.

He was held in solitary confinement for almost six months before being released on bail last month. Hedges and his wife have repeatedly denied the allegations of spying, but prosecutors insist the British academic confessed.

In a short statement, Almazroui dismissed accusations that Hedges had not received a fair trial, while stressing that the strength of his country's partnership with Britain meant both sides were determined to reach a solution.

"Matthew Hedges was not convicted after a five-minute show trial, as some have reported, " Almazroui said.

"Over the course of one month, three judges evaluated compelling evidence in three hearings. They reached their conclusions after a full and proper process. This was an extremely serious case.

"We live in a dangerous neighborhood and national security must be a top priority. Mr. Hedges' family have made a request for clemency and the government is studying that request."

Daniela Tejada, Hedges' wife, said the family was now waiting to hear the verdict.

"We have asked for clemency, we will wait to see what happens," she told Reuters on Friday.

"Matt was held in an undisclosed location in solitary confinement for over five months, with no charge, no lawyer and very limited consular access," she said. "The judicial system in the UAE and the UK cannot be compared. I was in the court room and the hearing lasted less than five minutes."

The decision to imprison Hedges has caused consternation in Britain with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stating the government sees "no foundation in the charges."

Hunt also warned there will be "serious diplomatic consequences for a country that says it is a friend and ally of the United Kingdom."

On Thursday, Hunt met with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed, tweeting: "I believe & trust he's working hard to resolve the situation asap. We've a close partnership with UAE which will help us take things forward."

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