Gen­tle gi­ant Matt no spy, says tu­tor

Sunday Express - - HISTORIC MOMENT IN BATTLE FOR BREXIT - By Marco Gian­nan­geli

THE BRI­TISH aca­demic jailed in the United Arab Emirates for al­leged spy­ing is a “gen­tle gi­ant” com­pletely ded­i­cated to the Arab coun­try, his tu­tor said last night.

Pro­fes­sor Clive Jones spoke af­ter PhD stu­dent Matthew Hedges, 31, was jailed for life for “spy­ing for a for­eign coun­try, jeop­ar­dis­ing the mil­i­tary, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic se­cu­rity of the state”.

Mr Hedges was de­tained Dubai air­port on May 5.

Prof Jones of Durham Univer­sity said au­thor­i­ties had sim­ply dis­cov­ered notes from in­ter­views with mil­i­tary chiefs and power bro­kers as part of Mr Hedges’s PhD.

He said: “Many of us have car­ried out field work in the Gulf States and even Ye­men and there has never been a prob­lem in ask­ing the kinds of ques­tions that at Matt was ask­ing to mem­bers of the UAE’s civil, po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship. It’s a bone fide area of re­search.

“Matt was no stranger to the UAE – he’s lived there on and off since the age of nine. This al­le­ga­tion is some­thing we to­tally and ut­terly re­ject. We’re shocked.”

Prof Jones added: “Matt’s a lovely guy, very quiet and unas­sum­ing. At 6ft 3in he wouldn’t look out of place in the sec­ond row of a rugby team but he’s a gen­tle gi­ant who is ded­i­cated to his re­search and the UAE.”

But Prof An­thony Glees of Buck­ing­ham Univer­sity’s Cen­tre For Se­cu­rity and In­tel­li­gence Stud­ies, ac­cused Durham Univer­sity of reck­less­ness for ac­cept­ing a £200,000 grant from Iran, which is on the op­pos­ing side to the UAE in the war in Ye­men.

“Iran, which re­mains a ma­jor foe of both the UAE and Saudi Ara­bia, must be a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor here, he said.”

Mr Hedges’s wife Daniela Te­jada has held talks with For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt, who said there would be “con­se­quences” if Mr Hedges was not re­leased.

Yes­ter­day the UAE’s am­bas­sador to London, Su­laiman Hamid Al­mazroui, said the coun­try might be will­ing to grant clemency.

Pic­ture: BENOIT TESSIER/Reuters

GES­TURE: A pro­tester in front of a fire in a demon­stra­tion against fuel tax in the Champs-El­y­sees in Paris yes­ter­day

JAILED: Matthew Hedges, left. Above, his wife Daniela

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