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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

British national Matthew Hedges posed as 'academic researcher' to spy on UAE for a foreign state, attorney general says

The 31-year-old had incriminating evidence on his electronic devices that was seized by the security services, Dr Hamad Al Shamsi says

The Federal Supreme Court building in Abu Dhabi, where the defendant stood trial. Photographed in 2010. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National
The Federal Supreme Court building in Abu Dhabi, where the defendant stood trial. Photographed in 2010. Rich-Joseph Facun / The National

A British citizen posed as an academic researcher to spy on the UAE, according to the country's most senior law officer.

Matthew Hedges will stand trial later this month following his arrest at Dubai International Airport five months ago.

The 31-year-old is suspected of attempting to procure sensitive information during a trip to the country earlier this year.

On Monday, Attorney General Dr Hamad Al Shamsi said that Mr Hedges spied "on behalf of or for a foreign state", without naming the country.

He also charged that Mr Hedges conducted information while posing as an "academic researcher". Mr Hedges will stand trial at the Court of Appeal's state security division.

The charges against the British national came to light when he appeared in court in Abu Dhabi last week.

Mr Hedges was first reported to prosecutors after an Emirati citizen told them the man had been asking for sensitive information. Prosecutors later said that he had been attempting to secure confidential information to potentially pass to a foreign agency.

On Monday, Dr Al Shamsi said that during questioning, Mr Hedges admitted to the claims against him, which were "identical to evidence and information gained from his own electronic devices and investigations conducted by the UAE’s security agencies".

He went on to say that the accused has been provided a lawyer by the state and has received any medical care he may need.

He also said a family member and embassy staff have been allowed to visit him.

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Read more:

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On Friday, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said that the case had been "extensively discussed with UK colleagues" over the past five months.

He also wrote on Twitter that "unusual and embarrassing revelations about friends and allies" had come to light as a result.

Dr Gargash also said there had been a "reluctance of UK authorities" address the matter through the usual channels.

Mr Hedges is expected in court on October 24.