British academic sues UAE officials over torture claims while in detention

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Reuters</span>
Photograph: Reuters

Matthew Hedges, the British academic convicted on spying charges by the United Arab Emirates after travelling to Dubai to conduct research, is suing four senior officials from the Gulf state he alleges were complicit in falsely imprisoning and torturing him.

Hedges was detained in Abu Dhabi, UAE, from for seven months in 2018 before being pardoned from a life sentence for spying.

On Wednesday, his solicitors, Carter-Ruck, said he was claiming damages in the high court in London for alleged assault, false imprisonment and the intentional infliction of psychiatric injury.

The proceedings have yet to be served on the defendants. The UAE embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment but the Gulf state has previously said Hedges was not subjected to any physical or psychological mistreatment during his detention.

Hedges said: “On 5 May 2018, I was detained and tortured in the UAE. Three years later, I am still waiting for the truth and justice. The UAE authorities have refused to answer the complaint that was submitted to them through the UK Foreign Office. It is clear they have no interest in finding out who was responsible for my abuse.

“This total lack of redress has prolonged my trauma and made it very difficult to move on with my life. On top of that, the FCDO [the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office] has not done enough to help me clear my name. Today, my fight for justice continues and my lawyers have filed a case in the civil courts in order to hold those responsible to account. I hope it will ensure that what happened to me should never be allowed to happen again.”

The claim form submitted by Carter-Ruck said Hedges expected to recover between £200,000 and £350,000 in damages. The four individuals named are all serving or former security or intelligence officials.

After his release, which followed intense lobbying by the then-UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the UAE continued to insist Hedges was an MI6 agent. Hedges and his wife said the Foreign Office did not do enough to address his alleged mistreatment in detention or to get his conviction quashed. Hunt said at the time that the Foreign Office had been “very effective” and “the important thing is that we got Matthew out”.