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 Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Pa­trick Sawer Roz­ina Sabur

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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

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