Durham student who was jailed for spying says he was failed by the Foreign Office

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada, who campaigned for his release. Pic: PA Wire/Daniela Tejada.
Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada, who campaigned for his release. Pic: PA Wire/Daniela Tejada.

A British academic who was jailed on spying charges by the United Arab Emirates has accused the UK's Foreign Office of failing to help him clear his name.

Durham University PhD student Matthew Hedges was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Gulf state last year after being accused of working for MI6.

Matthew Hedges reunited with his wife Daniela Tejada after his release from prison in the United Arab Emirates. Pic: PA Wire/Daniela Tejada.

Matthew Hedges reunited with his wife Daniela Tejada after his release from prison in the United Arab Emirates. Pic: PA Wire/Daniela Tejada.

A pardon from the UAE president secured his release in November following a campaign lead by his wife Daniela Tejada and interventions from Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

But Emirati officials continued to call Mr Hedges, who is originally from Exeter, a spy - an allegation denied by his family and colleagues.

In an interview with today's Sunday Telegraph, the 31-year-old revealed his six-month long incarceration has left him coping with sleepless nights, PTSD and reliant on a cocktail of drugs that were fed to him in jail.

Related: Durham spy accused Matthew Hedges appears in court in United Arab Emirates

Mr Hedges has now filed a formal complaint to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over allegations it did not do enough to secure his release and is not helping to get his conviction overturned.

Mr Hedges and Ms Tejada are also considering taking legal action against the FCO, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Ms Tejada told the newspaper her husband's case was "an injustice" that had "compromised" both their lives.

She said her husband was freed weeks after she spoke to the Press, following months of being told to stay quiet by the Government.

"While finally the Foreign Office did step up and intervene it took them seven months and a lot of private and public pressure for them to take action," she said.

Related: Durham academic Matthew Hedges pardoned in UAE following spying charge

"It is not acceptable that they now pretend that Matt is free and can carry on with his life.

"It is unacceptable the British Government now pretend nothing happened."

Mr Hedges had visited the UAE to research its national security strategy as part of his PhD work at Durham University.

He told the Sunday Telegraph that he now struggles to cope in large crowds, finds it hard to concentrate and has difficulty with bright lights, a legacy of his imprisonment.

"There are flashbacks and nightmares," he said.

His lawyer, Rodney Dixon QC, told the newspaper: "The FCO should be taking all possible steps to clear Matthew's name, especially as he was wrongly convicted by the UAE of being an agent of the UK Government.

Related: Durham academic jailed for life for spying in UAE arrives home after being pardoned and freed

"And yet they have flatly refused and left him in the lurch."

A spokeswoman for the FCO confirmed officials had received Mr Hedges's complaint.

She added: "We are delighted that Matthew was able to return to the UK and reunite with his loved ones, after his ordeal.

"As the Foreign Secretary has said, our ministers and staff, in the UK and the UAE, worked incredibly hard to support Matthew and his family during his detention and following his release.

"The Foreign Secretary and Foreign Office ministers raised Matthew's case with the UAE authorities at the highest levels, including with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, stressing the need for due process and raising our concerns about his welfare.

"Our staff maintained regular contact with Matthew and his family in the UK, updating them on developments in his case when we had information we could share, in compliance with our legal obligations under the Data Protection Act."