Durham University academic accused of spying offences is released on bail

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada. Picture courtesy of PA.
Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada. Picture courtesy of PA.

A Durham University academic detained in the United Arab Emirates since May on allegations of spying has been released on bail, the Foreign Office has said.

Matthew Hedges, 31, had been held in solitary confinement since he was arrested on May 5 at Dubai Airport.

Mr Hedges, a specialist in Middle Eastern studies at Durham University, went to the UAE to research his PhD thesis.

He appeared at the Federal Court of Appeal last Wednesday accused of spying for the British Government.

He has since been released on bail, the FCO said.

A spokeswoman for the FCO said: "As the Foreign Secretary has made clear, there are limits to what we can say publicly on Matthew's case due to ongoing legal proceedings.

"We are monitoring developments closely and have made the Emirati authorities aware of all our concerns. We continue to do everything we can for Matthew and his family.

"Our staff are in close contact with Matthew's wife, Daniela, offering her all possible support at what we appreciate is a hugely difficult time. We also remain in regular contact with his lawyer.

"It is the longstanding policy of successive UK governments not to comment on intelligence matters."

Mr Hedges' wife, Daniela Tejada, said she welcomed the development, but added: "I cannot allow myself to get too excited by this information as Matt is not fully free yet.

"Above everything, I hope that justice will be done and Matt is granted his rightful freedom - something that he's been unjustly denied in the last six months.

My main concern is his safety and I'd like to request the FCO and UAE authorities to ensure that he's protected during this time."

It is understood Mr Hedges' next court appearance is scheduled for November 21.

His family said prior to his release that they had only been allowed to visit him twice since during his detention.

Ms Tajeda told BBC News her husband had been suffering anxiety and panic attacks while in prison and had even expressed suicidal thoughts.

Mr Hedges completed a Masters degree in Middle East Studies at Exeter, and began working on his PhD at Durham in 2013.

In a joint statement, Durham and Exeter Universities said they were "deeply concerned" for Mr Hedges' welfare.