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Matthew Hedges looking to sue UAE over jailing: Report

Rodney Dixon QC says Hedges' family is looking into possible 'legal action' against the Gulf state that has accused the student of espionage
Matthew Hedges in London shows British student Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada posing on their wedding day (AFP)

British student Matthew Hedges is exploring the possibility of suing the United Arab Emirates over his six months of imprisonment on spying charges, his lawyer has said.

The Durham PhD student, who was given a presidential pardon on Monday five days after being sentenced to life in prison for allegedly spying for the British government, returned home on Tuesday. His family have constantly denied the charges.

"I don't know where to begin with thanking people for securing my release," Hedges said in the statement after arriving at Heathrow airport in London.

"I have not seen or read much of what has been written over the past few days but Dani tells me the support has been incredible. She is so brave and strong. Seeing her and my family after this ordeal is the best thing that could have happened," he added, referring to his wife Daniela Tejada, who campaigned for his release.

Hedges was first arrested in May and spent months in solitary confinement. Although he was pardoned following diplomatic and media outcry over his sentencing, the UAE continues to maintain that Hedges was a spy and released a video shortly after his pardoning that appeared to show Hedges confessing.

Legal actions in both the UAE, although very limited, and internationally – including before the UN – will be explored

- Rodney Dixon QC

An Emirati spokesman, Jaber al-Lamki, said Hedges was "100 percent a secret service operative" and aimed "to steal the UAE's sensitive national secrets for his paymasters".

Speaking to the Telegraph last night, Rodney Dixon QC - who was hired by Tejada while Hedges was in jail - said that options were being "explored" to take legal action against the UAE.

“We will explore all legal options and remedies to clear [Mr Hedges’] name of this false and unfounded conviction," he said.

“Legal actions in both the UAE, although very limited, and internationally – including before the UN – will be explored.”

Middle East Eye contacted Dixon for clarification, but so far has received no response.

Officially the UK will "neither confirm nor deny" allegations of membership of the intelligence service, but Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had seen "absolutely no evidence" Hedges was a spy.

Although the UK government had been accused of timidity on Hedges' case since his arrest in May, not least by Tejada, since the announcement of the life sentence the rhetoric escalated with Hunt warning that it could "have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries".

David Wearing, author of AngloArabia: Why Gulf Wealth Matters to Britain, told Middle East Eye that the case illustrated the kind of pressure the UK government could bring to bear on the UAE when it wanted to.

"There is this dominant misconception that in the relationship between the UK and the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the power lies with them and not us," he said.

"That we would like to press for human rights etc, but they hold the power in the relationship and we’ve got to be nice to them otherwise they’ll take offence and cut this tie and that tie and deny contracts and what have you.

"The reality is that the power lies with Britain and not the UAE. And I think this case really shows it."