The detention of a British academic of espionage charges remains a crisis for the British government amid continued criticism of Abu Dhabi abuses.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has vowed to investigate his ministry’s handling of the case of Matthew Hedges, the British academic who was arrested by the UAE.
Hedges, who spent seven months in UAE prisons and his wife Daniela Tejada, filed a legal complaint against the British Foreign Office.
The couple is asking the ministry to do more to overturn Hedges’ sentence after he was released under a presidential amnesty.
Hunt said the British Foreign Office was “very effective” in securing Hedges’ amnesty, which led to his release in November. But he admitted in an interview with the BBC that the ministry “doesn’t always get things right,” announcing the launch of a review in this case.
“I’ve asked for someone inside the Foreign Office to look independently at what happened to see whether we did do everything we could in that case as quickly as we could,” Hunt said.
But he added: “The important thing is that we got Matthew out. There was an injustice, we made an intervention, we were prepared to put our relationship with the UAE, which is an ally of the UK, on the line, because we said a British citizen has not been fairly treated. And we got him home.”
However, Hedges’s wife insisted that the British Foreign Office failed to acquit him of the charges against him. she also refused to accept the high efficiency claimed by the British Foreign Office.
“I beg to differ. It took them seven months to get Matt’s release and that took a lot of public pressure and a lot of battling from my side for them to eventually intervene on Matt’s behalf.”
She added: “We feel that they failed to take the appropriate steps in relation to his mistreatment whilst in detention, which was sufficiently severe to amount to torture.”
“This is not about compensation. We want them to support Matt in clearing his name. They were able to support him diplomatically to get him released. Now they need to support him to get his name cleared. He’s been accused of being a British spy. So it’s an issue pertaining to the British government as much as it pertains to Matt.”
Tejada added: “He was released on a presidential pardon, which essentially just means ‘you are a guilty man, but we will be so merciful that we’ll release you’. So he is still a falsely convicted spy and that is something that he has to carry with him every day of his life.”
Hedges said: “Our complaint is that the Foreign Office failed to take effective and timely action to secure my release, in particular to the UAE’s false allegation that I was … an MI6 agent.”
He said: “It will have a permanent, long-lasting effect. I have strained relations not only with Daniela but also with trying to have a normal life. We’ve had to see a couples counselor. I’ve seen two psychiatrists, and I’m going to have continual medical assistance for the foreseeable future.”
Tejada also said the couple was seeking the support of the United Nations to acquit him of the charges brought against him by the UAE.
The UAE had arrested Hedges in May while leaving the country at Dubai International Airport, after a two-week trip to conduct research on his doctoral thesis at Durham University.