A British academic who was detained by the authorities in the UAE about 3 years ago on charges of espionage filed a lawsuit against a number of senior officials in the Gulf state, accusing them of assaulting, torturing and unlawfully imprisoning him.
Matthew Hedges had returned to Britain in November 2018 after being detained for more than 6 months, after he was pardoned from a life sentence for espionage. His release came after the UAE published a video clip in which he confessed to being a member of the British intelligence service MI6.
This week, Hedges’ lawyers filed lawsuit papers in the London High Court against 4 security officials in the UAE, including the head of the State Security Prosecution in Abu Dhabi at the time and the commander-in-chief of Abu Dhabi Police at the time.
In the lawsuit, Hedges sought compensation for his assault, unlawful imprisonment, and intentional psychological injury. Neither the UAE government liaison office nor the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately responded to requests for comment on the lawsuit.
The UAE had previously said that Hedges was not subjected to any physical or psychological abuse during his detention.
“On May 5, 2018, I was arrested and tortured in the UAE,” Hedges said in a statement. “After 3 years, I am still waiting for the truth to emerge and justice to be achieved.”
The British academic had said – in an exclusive interview to the British newspaper (The Times) in December 2018 – that he was forced to stand for whole days with his feet shackled, and he was being interrogated for more than 15 hours at a time during his 6-month ordeal.
Hedges, 31, recounts that the time he spent in Abu Dhabi prison was solitary confinement, and he was forced to abruptly stop taking his medication, which was given to him in dangerous doses, and said, “I was very scared and in a deplorable psychological state.”
The “fluorescent” lamps in his cell caused him frequent migraines, and he chose to sit in the dark for more than 23 hours in May, only lighting them at mealtimes.
Hedges said in the lawsuit that the UAE authorities refused to respond to a complaint submitted to it by the British Foreign Office, and also accused the British Ministry of not doing enough to clear his name.
Hedges, a doctoral student at the University of Drum, was arrested at Dubai Airport after a two-week research visit.
He was held incommunicado for more than 5 months, and the evidence presented against him consisted of notes taken from his PhD research.
The research focused on sensitive topics in the Emirates, such as security structures, tribes, and consolidating political power in Abu Dhabi.
According to the lawsuit papers filed by the law firm entrusted with him, Carter Ruck, he expects to receive compensation between 200 and 350 thousand pounds (between 278 and 487 thousand dollars).