UAE spying claims: Durham University bans travel after student is detained in solitary confinement

UAE spying claims: Durham University bans travel after student is detained in solitary confinement

A university says it is “seriously concerned” for the welfare of a student being held in solitary confinement in the UAE and has banned student research travel to the country.

Matthew Hedges, a PhD student at Durham University , was reportedly taken into custody at Dubai airport on May 5 after travelling in the UAE to interview sources about the country’s foreign policy and security strategy.

The 31-year-old has been held without charge ever since and his rights are being “violated on a daily basis”, his wife Daniela Tejada said.

National newspaper reports claim he is accused of spying.

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada

According to a profile on the Durham University website, Mr Hedges’ research includes Middle Eastern politics, the changing nature of war, civil-military relations and tribalism.

Now, the the School of Government and International Affairs has put a temporary ban on all non-UAE national student research travel to UAE until the reasons for Mr Hedges’ detention have been fully established.

Durham University’s Vice-chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, said he is aware one of its students is being detained.

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada

He added: “We are seriously concerned about Matt’s welfare and wellbeing and we remain in close contact with his family.

“We have raised these concerns with the UK Ambassador to the UAE, the Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and local MPs, and we continue to offer our full assistance to efforts to bring Matt home safely and swiftly.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has personally raised Mr Hedges’ case with his UAE counterpart amid concerns over his mental health and wellbeing.

Dubai Marina, United Arab Emirates

Dubai Marina, United Arab Emirates

British officials have visited Mr Hedges twice, although he is said to have been prevented from discussing his case with them.

Mr Hedges’ case was heard by a court in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, but was adjourned until another hearing on October 24.

Ms Tejada said all she wants “is for Matt to come home safely”.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our staff are supporting a British man following his detention in the UAE.

“We are assisting his family and remain in close contact with authorities.

“The Foreign Secretary has also personally raised his case with his Emirati counterpart.”