Statement on behalf of the Department of Politics and the IAIS on the treatment of Matt Hedges

On Monday 5 May 2018, our academic colleague Matthew (Matt) Hedges, a PhD student in the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, was arrested at Dubai airport while he was leaving the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after a two-week field research visit in the country. After being held in solitary confinement in degrading conditions for more than five months, he was charged by the UAE authorities in October with espionage on behalf of the British intelligence service. We believe that this charge is without foundation. The purpose of his visit to the United Arab Emirates was solely related to his academic work.

Matt completed a Master’s Degree in International Relations of the Middle East at the University of Exeter in 2011 and has remained a close friend and colleague of the Department of Politics and the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies ever since. Living in Exeter, he has been a regular and active participant of international conferences and research seminars on the Middle East and international relations affairs held in our departments. He has developed intense academic relationships and friendships with fellow PhD students and staff members in Exeter and is greatly respected for his impeccable academic rigour and principles.

While we welcome his release on bail on 29 October, we remain worried about his condition. He has been made to wear an ankle bracelet and was warned that, if instructed, he may have to return to jail. We, in the name of his peers, colleagues and friends at the University of Exeter, following on from the statement by Professor John Williams, Head of the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, reaffirm that Matt is a member of our academic community, pursuing his doctoral research in full accordance with UK academic research and ethics procedures. We also bring to your attention the 600+ signatures from academics around the world, published in an open letter, calling for his release.

The allegations of espionage against Matt are baseless and a profound threat to the pursuit of legitimate academic enquiry, not just by Matt but by all academics working on and in the UAE. Based on clear evidence that he is a legitimate academic researcher who we believe is innocent of the charges brought against him, we urge the UAE government to immediately drop all charges, release Matt and allow him to return unconditionally to the United Kingdom to continue his studies.

Dr Robert Lamb (Head of Politics)
Professor Christine Robins (Director of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies)
on behalf of our academic communities.

The Institute has an outstanding international reputation, especially for our focus on the Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula and Islamic studies, and a high national ranking for academic excellence. The Institute’s atmosphere is cosmopolitan contributing to a lively, friendly community.

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