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PhD student held in Dubai on spying charge ‘suffering significant health issues’

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A British student accused of spying in the United Arab Emirates is said to be suffering from “significant health issues” after being in solitary confinement for five months.

Matthew Hedges says he flew to the UAE on 5 May to interview sources for research about the country’s security strategy and foreign policy.

The 31-year-old Durham University PhD student was detained at Dubai Airport and his family say he has been in solitary confinement ever since.

Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada
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Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada met at university eight years ago

Durham and Exeter universities have now issued a joint statement saying they are “deeply concerned” about Mr Hedges’s welfare.

“Matt is suffering from significant health issues after more than five months in detention,” they said.

“His welfare and right to a fair trial are now the overriding concerns of both Durham and Exeter universities.”

The universities called on UAE and UK authorities to “treat Matt with proper fairness and to make every effort to return Matt to his wife, Daniela, and his family and friends”.

They said they assured the court of Mr Hedges’s status as a PhD student “in good standing”.

“Matt’s thesis is nearing completion and was carried out in full accordance with Durham University’s research and ethics procedures,” the statement continued.

“His academic colleagues speak highly of his work, noting both his diligence and level of scholarship, as well as his undoubted passion and care for the Arab Gulf and its people.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has called Mr Hedges a “man of integrity and principle” and told MPs his case has been raised with officials “at the highest levels” in the UAE.

The academic started his PhD at Durham in 2013 after completing a masters degree in Middle East studies at Exeter.

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