Academic jailed in UAE faces ‘rigged justice system’
Matthew Hedges will be facing appalling hardship in prison, says US citizen held in similar conditions
THE British academic jailed in the UAE for alleged spying faces a rigged justice system which gives those accused no opportunity to defend themselves, it was claimed today.
A US citizen prosecuted by the Gulf state authorities and held in similar conditions to Matthew Hedges said the PhD student will have been subjected to an arbitrary criminal justice system which is weighted against the accused.
Shezanne Cassim, who was jailed for nine months by the UAE for posting a satirical video on YouTube said: “The feelings of terror and utter helplessness are constant because there’s no room in the UAE justice system to defend yourself – due process simply does not exist there.”
The family of Mr Hedges are pinning their hopes on a plea to the authorities for clemency. A petition calling on the UAE’s rulers to free him has drawn nearly a quarter of a million signatures.
Mr Hedges, 31, was arrested in May at Dubai Airport, having spent two weeks in the UAE carrying out research for his PhD on security in the region.
He spent six months in solitary confinement before being found guilty at what his wife Daniela Tejada said was a five-minute hearing with no lawyer.
Mr Cassim, 33, told The Sunday Telegraph that the description chimed with his own experience of the UAE’s justice system. He said: “Anyone who has been through their system knows the UAE doesn’t bother with the semblance of fairness.”
Mr Cassim said hearing what had happened to Mr Hedges had revived the feelings of anguish he felt on being arrested five years ago.
He said: “Despite repeated attempts, my family and the US consulate were given no explanation for my detention, and I was held without bail since no charges had been filed.
“I was stuck in my cell 23 hours a day. It was seven months before my case was heard in court. I had no idea what the judge was saying; I was simply told when to stand up and sit down.”
Mr Cassim, who was detained in April 2013, said court documents showed he was convicted solely on the basis of a false confession he was told to sign. Mr Hedges’s family say he too was made to sign a document in Arabic he did not understand after being detained.
Ms Tejada said she hoped that, following her plea for clemency, Mr Hedges would be released this week, ahead of a weekend of celebrations for the country’s national day. She said: “I have had my hopes dashed on so many previous occasions that I really don’t want to get too hopeful now. It will be devastating if he isn’t given clemency.”
Mr Cassim described the conditions in which Mr Hedges is likely to be held as appalling, with more than 100 inmates sharing poor hygiene facilities and being given poor quality food to
The service, launched in September 1938, became in Prof Plock’s words, “the most essential tool in Britain’s propaganda war with Germany”.
The BBC claimed that more than 10 million Germans were listening towards the end of the war. Prof Plock said: “The BBC was one of the few ways to find out what was going on.” eat. Anger at the treatment of Mr Hedges has led to a growing backlash among academic institutions in the UK. Durham University yesterday became the latest to join a boycott when it suspended all field research in the UAE, while lecturers at the University of Exeter, where Mr Hedges did his master’s degree, have called on the vice-chancellor to suspend all business partnerships with the Gulf state.
His plight has also renewed focus on the links between the UAE and British business, particularly the ownership of Manchester City FC by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the kingdom’s deputy prime minister.
Kristian Ulrichsen, Middle East expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute, Seattle, has called for more to be done to persuade the club to distance itself from the UAE’s rulers.
‘I really don’t want to get too hopeful now. It will be devastating if he isn’t given clemency’
Matthew Hedges with wife Daniela Tejada, who is pinning hopes for his release on a plea for clemency. Right, the court building in Dubai