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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

British spying trial: Attorney General says Matthew Hedges' verdict not 'final'

Dr Hamad Al Shamsi confirms academic still has the right to appeal

Durham University PhD student, Matthew Hedges, was sentenced to life in prison for spying in the UAE, before being pardoned and sent back home to the UK. EPA
Durham University PhD student, Matthew Hedges, was sentenced to life in prison for spying in the UAE, before being pardoned and sent back home to the UK. EPA

UPDATE: UAE Government: powerful and compelling evidence of Hedges' guilt

The UAE Attorney General has said the sentencing of British citizen Matthew Hedges to life in prison on charges of spying should not be viewed as a “final” judgement.

In a statement, Dr Hamad Al Shamsi clarified that the 31-year-old PhD student was entitled to appeal.

Mr Hedges, a student at Durham University in the UK, was convicted by the Federal Court of Appeal for attempting to procure sensitive information during a trip to the Emirates this year.

On Wednesday, he was jailed for a maximum of 25 years and was told he would be deported following the completion of his sentence.

“Today’s sentence is not final,” Dr Al Shamsi said. “The accused has the right to appeal ahead of the federal supreme court.

“This is one of the most important guarantees of the UAE’s just courts’ and is according to the UAE’s doctrine.”

Mr Hedges was first arrested at Dubai International Airport in May after an Emirati man told police he had been asking for sensitive information.

Prosecutors later said he had been attempting to secure confidential information to potentially pass to a foreign state — although they did not mention the country.

On Wednesday, Mr Hedges appeared in court to hear his sentence accompanied by his wife, Daniele Tejada, and officials from the British Embassy.

The court stated that his devices – thought to be his computers and phone – as well as his research, would be confiscated and that he had the right to appeal within 30 days.

The full statement from the court, translated from Arabic read:

"The Federal Appeals Court of Abu Dhabi sentenced Matthew Hedges, 31, to life imprisonment after being convicted of spying on the UAE and providing sensitive security and intelligence information to third parties. The court also ruled that he would be deported from the country after the execution of the sentence and would be charged the costs of the legal case. The court ordered the confiscation of all his equipment, devices, research and studies. The convicted person has the right to challenge the ruling with the State Security Department of the Federal Supreme Court within a maximum period of 30 days."

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Read more:

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

Legal process must take its course for Briton accused of spying, Gargash says

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Dr Al Shamsi said that during questioning, Mr Hedges had 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".

Ms Tejada has previously denied the charges against her husband in an interview with The Sunday Times.

“Matt is not guilty of what he is being charged with,” she said.

Ms Tejada said Mr Hedges, whose family used to live in Dubai, was “fascinated by Emirati security and threw himself into his research”, which focused on relationships between different tribes in the UAE.

Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, has 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" to address the matter through the usual channels.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May described the verdict as disappointing and said she would raise the case at the highest levels of the UAE government.

"We are of course deeply disappointed and concerned at today's verdict," she told parliament.