AN MP has spoken of her serious concerns for a Durham University student who has been held in solitary confinement for five months in the UAE, apparently accused of spying.

Matthew Hedges, a PhD student, was reportedly taken into custody at Dubai airport on May 5 after travelling to the UAE to interview sources about the country’s foreign policy and security strategy.

The 31-year-old has been held without charge ever since and his rights are being “violated on a daily basis”, his wife Daniela Tejada said.

Durham MP Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods said, she had been alerted to the arrest in July, by Durham University and her colleague MP Ben Bradshaw, who is MP for Exeter, where Mr Hedges lives.

They. along with Birmingham MP Nus Ghani, then raised the matter with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Dr Blackman-Woods said: “The Foreign Office have done a really good job on making representations, including Jeremy Hunt who has spoken to his UAE counterpart.

“Obviously we are all very concerned about Matthew’s welfare. He has had an appearance in court and will be back in court later this month (on October 24).

“Probably the nature of the charges against him will be clearer then. He has a legal team assigned to him and our understanding is the family are happy with that team and what we are hearing is that if he has specific welfare issues he needs to raise them with the UAE authorities.”

She added: “All we have ever been saying is that due process needs to take place and there needs to be some transparency - and that does seem to be happening now.”

British officials have visited Mr Hedges twice, although he is said to have been prevented from discussing his case with them.

Ms Tejada said all she wants “is for Matt to come home safely”.

She said: “We cannot believe this has happened. We have been patient and done everything that has been advised, supposedly in Matt’s best interest, but we can no longer go on like this.

“Matt is a brilliant researcher, a man of integrity, and he has been punished in the most unjust and unfair way.

“His rights are violated on a daily basis and I am shocked that more has not been done to get him out.”

Ms Tejada, 27, said she has not been told what exactly her husband is accused of, but said she would not rule out the prospect of him being accused of spying.

She said reports that he has been accused of spying are “highly speculative”, adding: “But we’ve been kept in the dark so it’s impossible to know.

“However, the only thing that I do know is that he most certainly wasn’t. Not just because he knows the region very well, and he knows that it’s not a safe thing to do, but because he’s a man of integrity.

“And he would never do anything to compromise that. And the only reason he went to the UAE was for his academic research.”

She added he was given a mattress about a month ago, but had been sleeping on the floor until then.

“The conditions in which he’s being kept are appalling,” she said.

“The fact that after such a prolonged time of being mistreated, every little gesture becomes so meaningful to him that I wouldn’t be surprised

if he’s developing some sort of Stockholm syndrome, and is thus more easy to manipulate.”

She has only seen her husband once since he was detained, and described the 45-minute visit as “distressing”. Ms Tejada said he described the interrogation period as “very intense”.

The couple have been allowed weekly phone calls, monitored and lasting a maximum of five minutes, but have been forbidden from discussing the case.

According to a profile on the Durham University website, Mr Hedges’ research includes Middle Eastern politics, the changing nature of war, civil-military relations and tribalism.

Ms Tejada said the UK should review its educational ties with the UAE in light of Mr Hedges’ detention, warning academic researchers like him “face great risks in the UAE”.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our staff are supporting a British man following his detention in the UAE. We are assisting his family and remain in close contact with authorities.

“The Foreign Secretary has also personally raised his case with his Emirati counterpart.”

Radha Stirling, chief executive of Detained In Dubai and a legal expert on the UAE, said: “It is alarming that the UAE would accuse him of ‘spying’ simply for pursuing research.

“We are not aware of the specific subject matter of his research in the UAE, but in the past he has studied the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities,

influence and agenda in the country, and around the region; and it is possible that the UAE authorities disliked what he has written in the past, and suspect him on purely political and ideological grounds.”

Durham University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Corbridge, said: “We are aware that one of our PhD students, Matt Hedges, has been detained in Abu Dhabi.

“We are seriously concerned about Matt’s welfare and wellbeing and we remain in close contact with his family.

“We have raised these concerns with the UK Ambassador to the UAE, the Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and local MPs, and we continue to offer our full assistance to efforts to bring Matt home safely and swiftly.”