Gentle giant Matt no spy, says tutor
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.
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