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British academic jailed in United Arab Emirates was force-fed drugs including addictive tranquillizers

The British academic jailed for spying in the Gulf has told how
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 tranquillizers.
When his captors feared he had gone too quiet, they gave him
Ritalin, a stimulant used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. The
combination, which Hedges’ friends say was given without proper
medical supervision, left him reeling in the days since he was
flown back to the U.K. to be reunited with his wife, Daniela
Tejada, 27.

Hedges, who had struggled with depression even before his
arrest, said last night: “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 U.K.

“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.

Daniela
Tejada, wife of detained British scholar Matthew Hedges, poses
for a photograph after an interview with AFP in London on
November 23, 2018.
BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty
Images

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.

A
handout picture taken in 2016 and released by the family of
Matthew Hedges.
HO/AFP/Getty Images

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, insisted there was no
evidence Mr Hedges was a spy and finally took up the case in
public in November, prior to Hedges’ 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.

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