ABU DHABI (Reuters) – A UAE court sentenced British academic Matthew Hedges to life in prison on charges of spying on Wednesday, according to his family and a court statement carried by state-run newspaper The National.
The hearing lasted less than five minutes and his lawyer was not present, his family said.
UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said he was “deeply shocked and disappointed” by the verdict, adding that he had personally raised the case at the highest levels of the UAE government and that the verdict would hurt relations.
He said the handling of the case by Emirati authorities would have repercussions on relations between the two countries.
Hedges, a 31-year-old doctoral student at Durham University, has been held in the UAE since May 5, when he was arrested at Dubai International Airport after a two-week research visit.
“I am in complete shock and I don’t know what to do. Matthew is innocent,” said Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, who was present in the courtroom. A Reuters journalist was barred from entering, which was closed to the public.
A life sentence for a non-Emirati entails a maximum of 25 years in jail and is followed by deportation, according to The National. The court ruled that his devices and research would be confiscated, the newspaper reported.
Emirati authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hedges was released on bail in late October, but had been held in solitary confinement for five months before that, his family said.
Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Katie Paul and Maha El Dahan, editing by John Stonestreet, William Maclean