DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates has been in contact with British authorities over a British academic since shortly after he was detained in May, a senior UAE official said on Friday, amid suggestions that he would be charged with espionage.
London has said little about the detention of Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old doctoral student at Durham University, who appeared in a court in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
Hedges’ wife Daniela Tejada said on Thursday that he had been detained without explanation at Dubai International Airport on May 5 after a two-week research visit, and held in solitary confinement ever since.
She said he had he had not been informed of the charges. The court appointed a lawyer to review the case and adjourned it until Oct. 24.
An Emirati source familiar with the case, who was not authorised to speak publicly, said Hedges would be charged with espionage, but that the court was waiting for his lawyer to review the case.
On Twitter, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash indicated that the UAE was disappointed with Britain’s response.
“Case of Mathew Hedges extensively discussed with UK colleagues over last 5 months,” he tweeted. “With reluctance of UK authorities to address matter thru common channels, due legal process needs to take its course.”
The British Foreign Office was not immediately available to comment. On Thursday, it said British officials were supporting a British man following his detention in the UAE, but gave no further details, adding that Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had personally raised the case with his counterpart.
State-backed UAE media reported last month that the attorney general had ordered a trial for a foreign national accused of spying, without elaborating on his identity.
According to a profile on Durham University’s website, Hedges is a doctoral student in the School of Government and International Affairs whose research interests include civilian-military relations, political economy and tribalism.
Last year, he co-authored an article in an academic journal on the Muslim Brotherhood and the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is a member.
The UAE is a tourism and trade hub for the Middle East, but tolerates little public criticism of its monarchy or policies and is opposed to the Islamist ideology of the Brotherhood.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)