Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'UK-UAE Relations Have Been Placed above My Partner'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'UK-UAE Relations Have Been Placed above My Partner'

Article excerpt

Byline: NICOLE MORLEY Reporter nicole.morley@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE wife of a British academic jailed for life in the United Arab Emirates on an allegation of spying has accused the UK Government of putting relations with the Gulf state before her husband.

Daniela Tejada condemned the Foreign Office over the handling of the case of 31-year-old PhD student Matthew Hedges ahead of her meeting with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday.

Mr Hunt has threatened the UAE with "serious diplomatic consequences" if Mr Hedges is not freed, saying he has seen "absolutely no evidence" to support the charge.

The Cabinet minister is understood to have met with the UAE ambassador in London yesterday morning and had a "very frank" conversation with him.

But Ms Tejada, having landed back at Heathrow Airport, said the UK had "failed" to take a firm stance over the Durham University student from the start of his ordeal.

"I was under the impression they were putting their interests with the UAE above a British citizen's rightful freedom and his welfare," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"They were stepping on eggshells instead of taking a firm stance."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the Foreign Office on the show for working "behind the scenes" to support Mr Hedges, with Mr Hunt appealing personally to the Crown Prince on November 12.

Ms Tejada, who was at the Abu Dhabi court when Mr Hedges was sentenced during a five-minute hearing on Wednesday, is expected to quiz Mr Hunt over what efforts the government will make to secure Mr Hedges's release.

She has made it clear she believes the UK should stop at nothing to free the "innocent" Briton, who was jailed after the UAE presented "completely fabricated" evidence.

Her calls for immediate action were echoed by Tory MP Johnny Mercer, who condemned the academic's jailing and called for the Government to be resilient.

He wrote on Twitter: "This is ridiculous. Our defence assistance, mentoring and intelligence relationships alone with this country should preclude absurd things like this happening. …

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