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Matthew Hedges: Ex-detainee issues 'torture' legal claim against UAE officials

UK academic accused of spying seeks damages against four men for assault, false imprisonment and psychiatric injury
Hedges was jailed in the UAE on spying charges and subsequently pardoned after pressure from the British government (AFP)

Matthew Hedges, the British academic who says he was falsely imprisoned and tortured in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over a period of more than six months in 2018, has issued civil proceedings in the High Court in London against four of the senior UAE officials who he says were involved.

Hedges was jailed on spying charges and subsequently pardoned after pressure from the British government.

He is claiming damages against the four men for assault, false imprisonment and the intentional infliction of psychiatric injury during the course of his detention in Abu Dhabi from 5 May 2018 to 26 November 2018.

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The defendants in the claim were named as counsellor Saqr Saif al-Naqbi, head of State Security Public Prosecution in Abu Dhabi at the time; Major-General Mohammed Khalfan al-Rumaithi, commander in chief of the Abu Dhabi police at the time; Major-General Ahmed Naser Ahmed Alrais al-Raisi, inspector general in the Ministry of the Interior; and Ali Mohammed Hamad Hammad al-Shamsi, a senior intelligence official in the UAE.

In a statement on Wednesday, Hedges said: "On 5 May 2018, I was detained and tortured in the UAE. Three years later, I am still waiting for the truth and justice. 

"The UAE authorities have refused to answer the complaint that was submitted to them through the UK Foreign Office. It is clear they have no interest in finding out who was responsible for my abuse."

Neither the UAE government's communications office nor the UAE foreign affairs ministry immediately responded to requests from Reuters for comment on the case.

The UAE has previously said Hedges had not been subjected to any physical or psychological mistreatment during his detention.

'Lack of redress'

At the time of his arrest, Hedges was a doctoral student at Durham University researching the UAE's security regime after the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Both Hedges and the UK government have strongly denied the UAE's allegations that the academic was involved in spying or has any ties to British intelligence agency MI6.

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Hedges has stressed that all aspects of his studies largely depended on publicly available resources, dismissing the notion of any secretive work.

He has said that throughout his last trip to the UAE, he closely followed the protocols and conditions imposed on him by the government as he conducted his research. 

Demanding accountability in Wednesday's statement, Hedges said: "This total lack of redress has prolonged my trauma and made it very difficult to move on with my life. 

"On top of that, the FCDO (UK Foreign Office) has not done enough to help me clear my name. Today, my fight for justice continues and my lawyers have filed a case in the civil courts in order to hold those responsible to account. 

"I hope it will ensure that what happened to me should never be allowed to happen again."

The claim form submitted by Hedges' law firm Carter-Ruck said he expected to recover between 200,000 pounds ($278,000) and 350,000 pounds ($487,000) in damages.

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