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Last Update: 3 Hour and 45 Minute ago
News code: 26455
Published Date: Sunday 21 October 2018 - 15:45:09

HRW blasts UAE over denying jailed British Academic his rights

HRW blasts UAE over denying jailed British Academic his rights
World  - The United Arab Emirates detained a British academic for months without charge, denying him his due process rights, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

Security forces detained Hedges, 31, on May 5, 2018, denied him effective legal assistance, and finally charged him with spying on October 16. He is due to appear in court next on October 24. His wife, Daniela Tejada, told Human Rights Watch that security forces have held him in prolonged solitary confinement for much of the time. Prolonged solitary confinement is strictly prohibited under international law and can amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

"The UAE invests considerable time and money painting itself as a progressive and tolerant country, but Hedges' case shows the face of an autocratic government with a fundamental lack of respect for the rule of law," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "UAE rulers cannot claim to preside over a global knowledge and education hub while locking up academics for months in solitary confinement."

Authorities arrested Hedges at Dubai International Airport as he was preparing to leave the country following a two-week trip to the UAE. Tejada said he was there for fieldwork for his doctoral thesis on the impact of Emirati security and foreign policies.

On October 16, the state-owned Emirati newspaper al-Bayan reported that the UAE's public prosecutor, Hamad al-Shamsi, had referred Hedges to the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeal on state security charges of "spying for a foreign state," in an act that "jeopardizes the military, economy, and political security of the UAE." Al-Bayan made reference to a prosecution statement in which al-Shamsi claims Hedges came to the UAE "under the guise of an academic researcher."

Al-Bayan said the statement contended that the charges were based on Hedges' confession and "evidence secured from his electronic devices; and surveillance and intelligence gathering by UAE intelligence and security agencies." The conditions of Hedges' detention, and his lack of access to a lawyer, especially during his interrogation, raise concerns regarding whether his confession was obtained under duress.

Tejada said that UAE authorities detained Hedges incommunicado for the first two weeks and have since held him in solitary confinement in an undisclosed location in Abu Dhabi. She said that his first court hearing wasn't until October 3 and that security forces did not allow him to access legal counsel until October 10, at his second hearing, more than five months after his arrest.

She said the authorities only informed Hedges about his trial five days in advance and provided little information about the charges or the nature of the court hearing. "This has majorly jeopardized Matt's possibilities to get external legal representation," Tejada said. She said she had contacted more than 20 lawyers in the UAE trying to find someone to represent her husband, but that they had all declined, saying they didn't have enough information or time to prepare a case. As a result, Hedges is being represented by a court-appointed lawyer, who, Tejada says, Hedges has difficulty communicating with because the lawyer is not fluent in English.

She said the authorities had allowed her husband to receive only a handful of visits from British officials, one visit from her, and one from other family. She said he told her he was denied weekly showers and forced to sleep on the floor for his first three months in detention. She said that while he was granted access to medical assistance, he was prescribed a "worrying cocktail of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medicine, and sleeping pills" and denied access to a psychiatrist. A UK consular officer told Tejada that Hedges was hospitalized for excessive vomiting on October 9. She has received no information on his medical situation since October 14 and does not know whether he remains hospitalized.


News Code: 26455
Published Date: Sunday 21 October 2018 - 15:45:09
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