UK student accused of spying detained for five months by UAE

The 31-year-old PhD student was on an academic research trip to the United Arab Emirates.

October 11, 2018 16:42
1 minute read.
Research student on hiking trip with his young wife

Research student on hiking trip with his young wife. (photo credit: DETAINED IN DUBAI)


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Continuing a series of international disappearances and detainment actions, a British student was arrested in Abu Dhabi in May and has been held by the United Arab Emirates for the past five months.

Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student from Durham University, was returning from a research trip to Dubai when he was detained at the airport and accused of spying. 

“Matthew is a respected academic and researcher,” said Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai. “It is alarming that the UAE would accuse him of 'spying' simply for pursuing research."
The UAE can hold individuals accused of national security violations indefinitely. Jailed in May, Hedges has been allowed visits with two consular officials.

The student is being held in solitary confinement. 

Hedges worked for Gulf State Analytics, geopolitical consulting firm based in Washington DC. He is a doctoral research student in Durham's School of Government and International Affairs.

The PhD candidate studied Middle Eastern politics and co-authored a journal article last year titled The GCC and the Muslim Brotherhood: What Does the Future Hold?

"In the past he has studied the Muslim Brotherhood's activities, influence and agenda in the country, and around the region; and it is possible that the UAE authorities disliked what he has written in the past, and suspect him on purely political and ideological grounds," Stirling said.

Following the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey and Israel's detainment of Lara Alqasem for her alleged support of BDS, a conversation about academic and literary suppression has erupted around the world. 

“[UAE] need[s] to understand that when you start jailing academic researchers, you immediately lose credibility in the eyes of the global community," Stirling said. "They are moving the wrong way on the road between dictatorship and democracy; between despotism and human rights.”

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