Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a statement yesterday (Thursday) on Matthew Hedges, the British student who was sentenced to life imprisonment for spying on Wednesday. 

Abdullah Al Naqbi, Head of the Department of Legal Affairs for ministry, said that the UAE respects the rule of law and is committed to upholding the highest judicial standards. “Like all countries with an independent judiciary it is vital that the government does not attempt to interfere in court cases. We cannot give assurances to other countries about the outcome of trials. Contrary to media reports, Matthew Hedges has been treated fairly and according to the constitution of the UAE,” said Al Naqbi.

“We are proud to have a system of justice that gives everyone the right to a fair trial. Our system also takes care to protect the welfare and physical wellbeing of suspects. Hedge’s has had access to medical and psychological care throughout. Members of his family and British Embassy staff were allowed to see him during the pre-trial phase,” he added.

“The case against Hedges was thoroughly investigated by the public prosecutor. Compelling and powerful evidence was presented in court. That included information extracted from his personal electronic devices by expert forensic analysis techniques; evidence provided by UAE intelligence Agencies; witness testaments and Hedges own confession.

“The case was heard by three judges in the security division of the Higher Federal Court who met a total of four times. In the first session on October 3 Hedges was asked whether he had proper representation and was offered the services of a court-appointed lawyer, which he accepted.

“Because the official language of UAE is Arabic Hedges was provided with translators, both in the investigation stage and during his trial. It is not true that he was asked to sign documents he did not understand. There were further hearings to consider the arguments of the prosecution and defence on October 10 and 24. Representatives from the British Embassy were present.

“The final session on November 21 was to announce a verdict and pass a sentence. The judges had made this clear in their previous session. It is normal and to be expected that such hearings are brief.

The crimes Hedges’ was accused of are extremely serious. For the UAE, like all countries, protecting our national security must be our first priority. Under the law of UAE anyone convicted by a court has the right to appeal the decision within thirty days. Families also have the right to appeal for Presidential Clemency on behalf of convicted relatives.

“The UAE is determined to protect its important strategic relationship with a key ally. 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.”