Statement from Radha Stirling (CEO of Detained in Dubai): "The announcement that Matthew Hedges has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Abu Dhabi has sent shockwaves through the British and international community as well as the academic community who I have advised to suspend research trips to the Emirates. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the press he was 'deeply shocked and disappointed', adding that Wednesday's sentencing was 'not what London expected from an ally.'
'Today's verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances,' Hunt said in a statement.
'The handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust.
'I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider.'
Jeremy’s comments will be echoed in Washington next week where I will be speaking on the UAE’s increasingly outrageous and lawless behaviour towards citizens of their allies. The UAE continues to ignore repeated requests from the United Nations to answer their demands regarding an illegal and militarised attack on a US flagged yacht and the kidnapping of a US citizen and a Finnish national in international waters.
It is reassuring to see how seriously the UK’s foreign secretary is taking this matter and I have seen similar growing concern in the United States and Australia as to whether the Gulf nation is truly an ally or actually a threat to national interests. What would be even more pleasing is if the UAE put an end to human rights violations, kangaroo courts, abductions and torture but this is a hope for the far future, not something that can be achieved in the next decade or so. For the moment, the UAE consistently displays that reality is a complete contradiction to the modern image its PR companies try to push to Western tourists and investors.
I fully expect that Matthew Hedges will launch an appeal but we must remember that he will be facing a judicial system that is known for corruption, unfair trials, forced confessions and discrimination. The UK courts have repeatedly denied all extradition requests to the country on this basis and, in Matthew’s case, the ultimate determination of his matter will come down to the ruling party, not to the legal system.
We at Detained in Dubai have dealt with in excess of 10,000 cases over the past decade and highlighted ongoing human rights violations to the international media, foreign governments, the private sector and the general public. We are appalled that the UAE has blatantly ignored the United Nations, leading human rights organisations, international law, even their own laws and constitution. The country has become so confident that it believes throwing money around the UK and US is a licence to jail, torture, kidnap and kill. If the UAE is allowed to continue in this manner, like the recently Khashoggi murder, nobody is safe."