By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – The life sentence handed to a British academic, who was accused of spying for the U.K. in the United Arab Emirates, is “shocking,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday.
“I am deeply shocked and disappointed by the verdict today,” Hunt said.
Matthew Hedges, 31, a PhD student from Durham University, has been in a UAE prison for more than six months after he was arrested while leaving the country.
On Wednesday, a UAE court sentenced him for life on attributed charges of being a spy for the U.K.
Hedges worked on the effects of Arab Spring on the UAE’s foreign policies as a subject for a thesis, according to the local media reports.
“I have personally raised the case of Matthew Hedges at the highest levels of the UAE government, including during my visit to Abu Dhabi on 12 November,” Hunt said in a statement.
Reminding that he spoke of the case with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, Hunt said “today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances.”
Hunt said the UK’s consular officials “have been in close contact with Matthew Hedges and his family.”
“We will continue to do everything possible to support him.”
Hunt said he has “repeatedly made clear that the handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust.”
“I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider,” he added.