UAE says British student sentenced for spying ‘treated fairly’

Matthew Hedges, right, with his wife Daniela Tejada in this undated picture. (Detained in Dubai /AFP)
Updated 23 November 2018
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UAE says British student sentenced for spying ‘treated fairly’

  • ‘We can confirm that he was sentenced to life in prison’
  • Matthew Hedges was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies when he was detained at Dubai airport

DUBAI: The UAE said on Thursday British academic Matthew Hedges has been treated "fairly," and that it was determined to protect its important and strategic relationship with key ally Britain.

Matthew Hedges was sentenced to life in prison on charges of spying for the British government on Wednesday in a move described as "deeply disappointing" by Prime Minister Theresa May.

"Matthew Hedges has been treated fairly and according to the constitution of the UAE," a statement from the Gulf state's foreign ministry said.

It added Hedges was provided with translators and "it is not true that he was asked to sign documents he did not understand."

"Officials from both countries have discussed the matter regularly over recent months. Both sides hope to find an amicable solution to the Matthew Hedges case," the statement said.

 

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday that he was “deeply shocked and disappointed” by the decision of the UAE court.

“Today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances,” he said.

Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student, was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 when he was detained at Dubai airport on May 5.

He was granted temporary release on October 29 but constantly monitored until Wednesday’s court hearing, only his third since his arrest.

UAE attorney general Hamad Al-Shamsi said earlier this month that Hedges was accused of “spying for a foreign country, jeopardizing the military, political and economic security of the state.”

UAE's foreign ministry said that Hedges has been treated "fairly and according to the country's constitution," determined to protect its important and strategic relationship with key ally Britain. It added that translators were provided for Hedges and said, "it is not true that he was asked to sign documents he did not understand."

Hedges has repeatedly denied the charges.

According to The National newspaper, a life sentence for a foreigner entails a maximum of 25 years in jail and is followed by deportation.


Daesh ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria as Trump urges Europe to do more

Updated 22 min 32 sec ago
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Daesh ‘caliphate’ on brink of defeat in Syria as Trump urges Europe to do more

  • “The Caliphate is ready to fall,” he said in a Tweet
  • US-backed fighters in Syria are poised to capture Daesh’s last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates

NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria: US-backed fighters in Syria are poised to capture Daesh’s last, tiny enclave on the Euphrates, the battle commander said on Saturday, bringing its self-declared caliphate to the brink of total defeat as US President Donald Trump spoke of “100 percent victory”.
Jiya Furat said the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had cornered the remaining militants in a neighborhood of Baghouz village near the Iraqi border, under fire from all sides.
“In the coming few days, in a very short time, we will spread the good tidings to the world of the military end of Daesh,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Daesh.
He was speaking after said on Friday there would be “great announcements” about Syria over the next 24 hours.
Trump on Saturday said the caliphate was “ready to fall and that the United States was asking European allies to take back more than 800 Daesh fighters captured in Syria and put them on trial.
“The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial,” he said in a Tweet. “The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them...
“....The US does not want to watch as these ISIS fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!”
Trump has sworn to pull US forces from Syria after Daesh’s territorial defeat, raising questions over the fate of Washington’s Kurdish allies and Turkish involvement in northeast Syria.
As the SDF advanced under heavy US airstrikes in recent days, a stream of civilians fled the few square miles of hamlets and farmland that remain within Daesh’s ‘caliphate’, along with defeated jihadists trying to escape unnoticed.
Though Daesh fighters still hold out in a pocket of central Syria’s remote desert, and have gone underground as sleeper cells in Iraqi cities, able to launch new attacks, their territorial rule is, for now, almost over.
It ends a project launched from the great mediaeval mosque of Mosul in northern Iraq in 2014, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seized advantage of regional chaos to proclaim himself caliph, suzerain over all Muslim people and land.
He set up a governing system with courts, a currency and flag that at its height stretched from northwest Syria almost to Baghdad, encompassing some two million inhabitants.
Human shields
But its reign of terror over minorities and other perceived enemies, marked by massacres, sexual slavery and the beheading of hostages, drew a forceful international military response that pushed it steadily back from 2015.
Most of the fighters left in Baghouz are foreigners, the SDF has said, among the thousands drawn by Baghdadi’s promise of a new jihadist utopia straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border and expunging national borders.
All that remains, said Furat, is an encircled pocket some 700 meters square. “Thousands of civilians are still trapped there as human shields,” he said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the SDF had taken control of all of Baghouz after the jihadists there surrendered. SDF officials denied this.
Spokesman Mustafa Bali said the SDF had caught several militants trying to flee among the civilians. Others had handed themselves over.
Their fate, and that of their families, has befuddled foreign governments, with few ready to repatriate citizens who pledged allegiance to a group sworn to their destruction, but who might be hard to legally prosecute. The SDF does not want to hold them indefinitely.
The fate of Baghdadi is also a mystery. He has led the group since 2010, when it was still an underground al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq.
Still a threat
Its capacity then for strategic retreats in hard times, followed by rebounds when circumstances changed, has prompted numerous warnings that Daesh’s defeat has not ended the threat it poses to the region.
Daesh suffered crippling defeats in 2017, when Iraq recaptured Mosul, the SDF seized its Syrian capital of Raqqa, and the Damascus government pushed it east to the Euphrates.
But in Iraq it has switched to guerrilla hit-and-run tactics, aimed at undermining the Baghdad government. It has also claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in swathes of northeast Syria held by the SDF, including one last month that killed four Americans.
That attack came soon after Trump pledged to pull out, saying Daesh was already defeated, rattling allies and prompting defense secretary Jim Mattis to resign.
Turkey, which regards the SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG, as terrorists, has threatened to march deeper into northern Syria to drive it back.
On Friday US Army General Joseph Votel, who oversees US forces in the Middle East as head of Central Command, said the end of the territorial caliphate would lead to a more dispersed, harder-to-detect network of fighters waging guerrilla warfare.
That should require continued help from Washington, he said.