Jail term felt like tor­ture – stu­dent

Western Daily Press - - News - EL­LIE CULLEN [email protected]­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

AWEST aca­demic who was ac­cused of spy­ing and held in soli­tary con­fine­ment in the United Arab Emi­rates for nearly six months has told how his or­deal at the hands of in­ter­roga­tors felt like psy­cho­log­i­cal “tor­ture”.

Matthew Hedges was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment by the Gulf state after be­ing ac­cused of work­ing for MI6, be­fore be­ing par­doned by the na­tion’s pres­i­dent days later.

Now back home in the UK with his wife Daniela Te­jada, the Durham Univer­sity PhD stu­dent has spo­ken about his ex­pe­ri­ence, claim­ing “ag­gres­sive” in­ter­roga­tors left him “so scared and on edge”.

“I was never phys­i­cally tor­tured, but it was psy­cho­log­i­cal, and it felt like tor­ture,” he said in an in­ter­view with The Times.

Ac­cord­ing to the pa­per, Mr Hedges was ques­tioned for up to 15 hours a day and was forced to wear an­kle cuffs.

He was of­fered a favourable bar­gain if he turned dou­ble agent and stole doc­u­ments from the For­eign Of­fice, the pa­per added.

“They started get­ting more and more ag­gres­sive and I’d have panic at­tacks for two or three days in a row,” Mr Hedges said.

“After all that pres­sure, I said OK, fine, what­ever, yeah sure.”

The 31-year-old is also said to have been given a cock­tail of Xanax, Val­ium and ben­zo­di­azepine after he begged to be given medicine for his de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

He is re­ported to have been forced to go “cold turkey” from the drugs dur­ing a stint in hospi­tal.

Mr Hedges, orig­i­nally from Ex­eter, was ar­rested at Dubai Air­port as he tried to leave on May 5.

His wife mounted a cam­paign to free her hus­band and For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt per­son­ally dis­cussed the case with UAE lead­ers.

He was freed last month but of­fi­cials per­sisted in call­ing him an MI6 spy – a claim de­nied by fam­ily and col­leagues.

An of­fi­cial told re­porters in Abu Dhabi that Mr Hedges was “100 per cent a full-time se­cret ser­vice op­er­a­tive” who was in the coun­try “to steal the UAE’s sen­si­tive se­cu­rity na­tional se­crets for his pay­mas­ters”.

He said the Bri­ton’s par­don came in re­sponse to a let­ter from his fam­ily ap­peal­ing for clemency and due to the his­tor­i­cal close ties be­tween the UK and the UAE.

The UK takes a “nei­ther con­firm nor deny” ap­proach to al­le­ga­tions of in­tel­li­gence ser­vice mem­ber­ship, but Mr Hunt pre­vi­ously said he had seen “ab­so­lutely no ev­i­dence” to sug­gest Mr Hedges was a spy.

Ear­lier this week, the head of MI6 said he was “per­plexed” by Mr Hedges’ jail­ing and said there would be “frank con­ver­sa­tions” with the UAE.

Mr Hedges said the sup­port he had re­ceived for his case had been “amaz­ing”.

I was never phys­i­cally

tor­tured, but it was psy­cho­log­i­cal, and it

felt like tor­ture MATTHEW HEDGES

Matthew Hedges is now back home with his wife Daniela Te­jada

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