Tyne & Wear

Matthew Hedges: UAE spy-accused will 'take years' to recover

Matthew Hedges and his wife, Daniela Tejada Image copyright Daniela Tejada
Image caption Daniela Tejada helped secure her husband's release

The British academic jailed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over spying allegations says it will "take years" to recover from his ordeal.

Durham University PhD student Matthew Hedges, 31, endured "psychological torture" and was tied up after being accused of being a British agent.

He was pardoned last month after intense diplomatic pressure.

Mr Hedges said he was undergoing specialist psychiatric treatment which would last for years rather than weeks.

He had denied spying for the UK, saying he had been researching his PhD, but was jailed for life in an Abu Dhabi court.

Mr Hedges said he was forced to stand "all day" in ankle cuffs, suffered panic attacks and had suicidal thoughts while being held.

He said he was only able to speak to his wife Daniela Tejada - who campaigned for his release - once a week.

Image copyright EPA/DANIELA TEJADA
Image caption Matthew Hedges has always maintained his innocence and said he had been researching his PhD

The UAE government said he was "100% a spy", but pardoned him on 26 November. The leader of MI6 said he was "perplexed" about the UAE's reasons for jailing Mr Hedges.

Mr Hedges told BBC 5 Live: "The second day I got back I went to see a doctor and started on medication.

"I saw a psychiatrist last week and am now in touch with two specialist centres to assess what I need to do and make a roadmap of recovery."

He said it would "be quite a hard challenge" for the couple.

"This isn't going to take days or weeks, it's probably going to take years and that's something we're going to have to work through, not just Danni and myself but our families.

"I'm trying not to think about things too much ... we have to take things slower.

"We need to take a step back whenever we can and put ourselves first and foremost so we can recover and make ourselves stronger - not only for ourselves but for other people."

Ms Tejada said the couple intended to follow "a path of justice" in an effort to clear Mr Hedges' name and support other families who found themselves in similar situations abroad.

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