They force-fed me drugs, says academic jailed in UAE
Matthew Hedges, who was freed last week, says he is now suffering severe withdrawal symptoms
The British academic jailed for spying in the Gulf says he is suffering severe withdrawal symptoms after being force-fed a cocktail of drugs by his captors.
Matthew Hedges, 31, was held in solitary confinement for almost six months after his arrest at Dubai airport in May on suspicion of spying for MI6. He was convicted and jailed for life but finally freed last week after receiving a presidential pardon.
Hedges has now revealed he is struggling to cope after having to take random medication during his captivity in the United Arab Emirates. He was given Xanax and Valium, highly addictive tranquillisers. When his captors feared he had gone too quiet, they gave him Ritalin, a stimulant used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The combination, which Hedges’s friends say was given without proper medical supervision, left him reeling in the days since he was flown back to the UK to be reunited with his wife, Daniela Tejada, 27.
Hedges, who had struggled with depression even before his arrest, said: “I had been suffering from anxiety and depression and was due to start non-medicated treatment for my mental health upon my return to the UK.
“Those keeping me in the UAE decided they would deal with my panic attacks and bouts of depression by heavily medicating me. I am now having to deal with the consequences of this, including quite severe withdrawal symptoms.”
Hedges also disclosed how he was held in solitary even after being convicted in an Abu Dhabi court. He said he was not given a proper prison cell but was instead kept for the duration of his captivity in an interrogation room. It is thought he was held at the UAE’s intelligence agency headquarters by authorities convinced he was spying for MI6 after asking questions about Gulf security for his PhD.
The Durham University academic believes a local Emirati who had fallen foul of the UAE authorities made the false spying claim against him to curry favour with the ruling elite. Hedges says he is seeking to clear his name and have the spying conviction overturned. He is also considering suing the UAE for false imprisonment and has hired Rodney Dixon QC, a senior barrister and international human rights lawyer, to explore his options.
Tejada was highly critical of the foreign office for not fighting harder to negotiate her husband’s release. The family was advised to keep quiet about his plight amid claims the foreign office had close ties with the UAE and did not want to upset its ally.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted there was no evidence that Hedges was a spy and finally took up the case in public in November, before Hedges’s conviction and life sentence. A diplomatic rift ensued between the UK and UAE, and universities voted to boycott campuses in the Emirates.
Alex Younger, the head of MI6, said the case was perplexing, and denied Hedges had ever been an agent.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited