Matthew Hedges: I'm de­ter­mined to clear my name af­ter UAE or­deal

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Matthew Weaver

Matthew Hedges has said he is de­ter­mined to clear his name, claim­ing he was psy­cho­log­i­cally tor­tured into mak­ing a false con­fes­sion to spy­ing in the United Arab Emi­rates.

In his first broad­cast in­ter­view since re­turn­ing to the UK, the PhD stu­dent said he was made to stand in shack­les af­ter protest­ing his in­no­cence.

He told BBC Ra­dio 4’s To­day pro­gramme that panic led him to con­fess to be­ing a MI6 agent af­ter a week of in­creas­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal pres­sure from his in­ter­roga­tors.

“I couldn’t take it any more,” he said. “They even said that if you ad­mit things and you tell us what we want to hear, we will make it eas­ier for you.”

Speak­ing along­side his wife, Daniela Te­jada, Hedges, 31, said that in the new year he would start a cam­paign to be cleared of the spy­ing charges for which he was par­doned last month.

He said he had drawn strength from his wife’s cam­paign to get him re­leased. “You’ve seen what Dani’s been do­ing. How strong she is. That gives me the courage to move for­ward and to keep not only fight­ing for my own case, but try to raise sim­i­lar is­sues for other peo­ple in those sit­u­a­tions, of which there are many.”

Hedges said he was in­no­cently gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion in the UAE as part of his aca­demic re­search. “I didn’t have any se­cret in­for­ma­tion. It is all open­source in­for­ma­tion. It has hap­pened to mul­ti­ple Emi­rate aca­demics who are im­pris­oned for years. To that ex­tent I was lucky.”

Te­jada urged the For­eign Of­fice to change the way it han­dled such cases af­ter she was de­nied in­for­ma­tion about her hus­band’s plight.

She said: “They were un­able or un­will­ing to share in­for­ma­tion with me about Matt’s where­abouts or his con­di­tion for six weeks be­cause they didn’t have his ex­plicit au­tho­ri­sa­tion.”

She added: “They weren’t get­ting ac­cess to him so how could they get his ex­plicit au­tho­ri­sa­tion to share in­for­ma­tion with his next of kin? … It mustn’t hap­pen again and peo­ple have that re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­mand their gov­ern­ment to change things.”

Asked what ad­vice he would give the for­eign sec­re­tary, Jeremy Hunt, Hedges said: “I would strongly ad­vise them to hear Dani’s ex­pe­ri­ence and to maybe look at ways and means in which they could im­prove their work abroad.”

Hedges con­firmed he was asked to act as a dou­ble agent for the UAE dur­ing his in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

He said: “This was on the third or fourth day. They propo­si­tioned me to steal of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion from the For­eign Of­fice. I had a panic at­tack and said: ‘Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. I don’t work for the For­eign Of­fice.’”

He said he had thoughts about killing him­self dur­ing his seven-month con­fine­ment in the UAE. He said: “I was hav­ing quite bad panic at­tacks and I felt I was chok­ing, I couldn’t breathe. And in that night I dreamt I was hang­ing my­self in the cell.”

De­scrib­ing his treat­ment, he said: “When­ever I was trans­ported be­tween dif­fer­ent premises I was blind­folded and hand­cuffed. When I tried to tell the truth to the in­ter­roga­tors their re­ac­tion was to make me stand for the day wear­ing an­kle cuffs.”

Asked if his treat­ment amounted to tor­ture, he said: “Psy­cho­log­i­cally, cor­rect. It felt like it. Es­pe­cially with the cock­tail of med­i­ca­tion I was be­ing given. I wasn’t able to man­age my thoughts through­out the in­car­cer­a­tion.”

Pho­to­graph: Daniela Te­jada/EPA

Matthew Hedges with his wife, Daniela Te­jada, af­ter they were re­united fol­low­ing his re­lease.

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