British Ph.D. Student Detained, Facing Trial in U.A.E.

October 12, 2018

A British Ph.D. student has been detained in solitary confinement for five months and is facing trial on spying charges in the United Arab Emirates, the Financial Times reported. Matthew Hedges, a Ph.D. student at Durham University, was detained at the Dubai airport in May after a two-week trip to conduct interviews for his dissertation on the U.A.E.’s foreign and security strategy. Hedges’s wife, Daniela Tejada, said the family had received no information about the charges against him.

The U.A.E. government did not respond to the Financial Times’s request for comment. The paper noted that Hedges’s detention has raised fears in academe about the risks of researching sensitive topics in the U.A.E.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a fellow for the Middle East for Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and a noted expert on the Gulf region, said Hedges’s detention changes the risk calculations for foreign students and scholars headed to the U.A.E. On Twitter Ulrichsen described Hedges "as a friend and one of the sharpest analysts I know. He's no spy."

“The assumption had been that if you were a Western scholar the worst that would happen would be you would be denied entry, as I was, or if you were picked up in situ you would be questioned for a few hours and taken to the airport and deported,” Ulrichsen said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. “The fact that a student, especially a student from a British university, has been sucked into the state security system and accused of being a spy is a massive escalation.”

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