UAE ‘spy’ man ‘psychologically tortured’

By / February 10, 2019

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Media captionMatthew Hedges and Daniela Tejada

The British academic jailed for spying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has told how he endured “psychological torture”.

Matthew Hedges, 31, said he was forced to stand “all day” in ankle cuffs, suffered panic attacks and had suicidal thoughts.

Mr Hedges, who denies being a spy, told the BBC he only confessed to being a captain in MI6 to stop the “torture”.

The UAE also asked him to act as a double agent in the UK Foreign Office.

Mr Hedges had denied spying and said he had been researching his PhD, but was jailed for life last month after a five-minute trial.

The UAE government said the Durham academic was “100% a spy”, but pardoned him on 26 November.

Speaking to John Humphrys on the Today programme on Radio 4, Mr Hedges said being in a cell was “was lonely and isolating”.

He was given a “cocktail” of medication to treat his depression and anxiety, he said, and deprived of natural light.

“I wasn’t allowed to do anything to distract myself. My mental health was deteriorating,” he said.

“I was handcuffed and blindfolded. I had to stand all day in ankle cuffs.”

Image copyright Daniela Tejada
Image caption Daniela Tejada helped secure her husband’s release

Visits to the bathroom were accompanied by four guards, he said.

Mr Hedges said standing in ankle cuffs was “mentally exhausting”, but that adrenaline would kick in and help him cope.

Shortly before his arrest he was due to have counselling to deal with anxiety and depression.

“I could not manage my thoughts throughout the incarceration,” he said.

He also said he regularly had panic attacks and some nights he dreamt of hanging himself in his cell.

He said he was only able to speak to his wife Daniela Tejada – who had been campaigning for his release – once a week.

Image copyright EPA/DANIELA TEJADA
Image caption Matthew Hedges has always maintained his innocence and said he had been researching his PhD

During hours of interrogations he said the psychological pressure was so great he confessed.

“I panicked and told them I was a captain in MI6 – I told them what they wanted to hear.”

He also spoke of how he felt when he was sentenced to life in prison.

‘Think twice’

“It was total shock – I wasn’t able to process it. I couldn’t say goodbye to Danni.”

Ms Tejada said academics would now have to think twice before doing research in the UAE.

She said: “At the heart of it it’s about drawing red lines. I think the biggest issue is naturally the fact that there is no academic freedom in the UAE but also the fact that the red lines aren’t clearly drawn.

“So it’s sort of every man on their own. Each academic will have a different experience – to assess how safe it is to do research.”

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