The UAE is reviewing a request for clemency from the family of a British researcher sentenced to life in prison on spying charges this week, the country’s ambassador to London said on Friday.
Matthew Hedges’s family “have made a request for clemency and the government is studying that request,” Ambassador Sulaiman Hamid Al Mazroui said in a televised statement shown on BBC and Sky News in which he also defended the UAE’s judiciary.
“The government does not dictate verdicts to the courts,” Mazroui said, adding that genuine researchers were able to visit the country freely.
“Matthew Hedges was not convicted after a five-minute trial as some have reported. This was an extremely serious case. We live in a dangerous neighbourhood and national security must be our top priority,” he said.
“We have an extremely close partnership with the UK,” he told reporters. “Because of the strength of that relationship, we are hopeful that an amicable solution can be reached.”
The ambassador denied claims that Hedges received only a brief court hearing before being convicted on very serious charges and said the British academic had proper legal representation in court.
Matthew Hedges’s wife Daniela Tejada said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday that she believes British authorities are working to free her husband.
A UAE court on Wednesday sentenced 31-year-old Hedges, who was studying for a doctorate on the UAE’s foreign and security policies at Durham University in northern England.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier she was “deeply disappointed and concerned” at the verdict in what is a key ally for Britain in the Gulf region.
The UAE foreign ministry also responded saying it hoped for “amicable solution to the Matthew Hedges case”.
Hedges’ wife Daniela Tejada has criticized British officials for their handling of the case, saying they had refused to defend her husband for fear of upsetting Dubai.
Source Credit: Khaleej Times