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.