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Matthew Hedges: Durham University academic jailed for life in UAE

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Matthew Hedges

A British PhD student Matthew Hedges, 31, of Durham University, who was accused of spying in the United Arab Emirates for the UK government has been sentenced to life in prison.

Hedges says he is innocent and went to Dubai only to research for his thesis. On Wednesday, Hedges was sentenced at an Abu Dhabi court in the absence of any lawyer.

Daniela Tejada, 27, wife of Matthew Hedges, was present in the courtroom and said she is in “complete shock” with the verdict.

“I am in complete shock and I don’t know what to do,” she said. “Matthew is innocent. The Foreign Office know this and have made it clear to the UAE authorities that Matthew is not a spy for them. The British government must take a stand now for Matthew, one of their citizens. They say that the UAE is an ally, but the overwhelmingly arbitrary handling of Matt’s case indicates a scarily different reality, for which Matt and I are being made to pay a devastatingly high price,” she continued.

Tejada also said the case is not being handled seriously, “This whole case has been handled appallingly from the very beginning with no-one taking Matthew’s case seriously.”

Matthew Hedges was detained at the Dubai airport on May 5, after an Emirati man reported him to the authorities for “asking sensitive questions about some sensitive departments” and “seeking to gather classified information on the UAE”.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was “seeking a call with Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed,” said Theresa May.

Hunt too was “deeply shocked and disappointed” by the verdict.

Hunt has raised the case with the “highest levels of the UAE government”. He also said the verdict was “not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom, and runs contrary to earlier assurances”.

Tory MP Crispin Blunt has asked May to make it clear to the UAE, if Matthew Hedges “is not released, I don’t see why we should be committed to their defence”.

A life sentence in the UAE means maximum of 25 years in prison.

However, Matthew Hedges has 30 days to appeal, while he will still be kept in the jail.

Attorney General Dr Hamad Saif Al Shamsi said, ”The defendant confessed in detail to his crimes during investigations whereby he was accorded his full rights and assurances as per the UAE constitution and state laws to fair and transparent trial.”

Hunt has been urging the UAE to reconsider the case.

“Our consular officials have been in close contact with Matthew Hedges and his family. We will continue to do everything possible to support him,” Hunt Said.

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UK to Revoke Shamima Begum’s Citizenship

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Shamima Begum

The teenager Shamima Begum who joined ISIS at the age of 15 is set to lose her UK citizenship.

Some Whitehall sources have said that it was possible that Shamima Begum might lose her UK citizenship because she was eligible for citizenship in another country.

Tasnime Akunjee her family’s lawyer expressed disappointment over the decision and was considering “all legal avenues” to appeal the decision.

The 19-year old had said she wanted to return home four years after she left the UK to join Islamic State in 2015.

She was found last week in a Syrian refugee camp after she reportedly left Baghuz, last ISIS captured area, and gave birth to a boy during the weekend.

Shamima Begum in an interview with the BBC said she never sought to be an IS “poster girl” and that all she wishes for is to raise her baby peacefully in the UK.

The letter sent to Begum’s mother asking her to inform her daughter of the decision was obtained by UK’s ITV News.

“The 1981 British Nationality Act states that a person can be deprived of their citizenship if the home secretary is satisfied it would be ‘conducive to the public good’ and they would not become stateless as a result,” the BBC reported.

Shamima Begum, who claimed she travelled with her sister’s passport, reported that the passport was taken from her after she crossed the border.

When asked in an interview, she said she never had a Bangladeshi passport neither did she travel to the country. 

Her son would still be considered to have a British citizenship because he was born before Begum could lose her UK citizenship.

A Home Office spokesman said: “In recent days the home secretary has clearly stated that his priority is the safety and security of Britain and the people who live here.”

He said every individual case cannot be commented upon, but the department made the decision “based on all available evidence”.

Lord Carlile, a former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, analysed the situation and pointed out that since Begums mother is believed to be a national of Bangladesh, then Shamima Begum too would be a Bangladeshi, as per the law of Bangladesh.

Conservative MP George Freeman on his official twitter handle said: “I’m afraid that for various reasons I think today’s decision to strip Miss #Begum of her UK citizenship is a mistake & a dangerous precedent. She was born here, educated here & is our responsibility. We should defend our system & she should be brought back to face the UK courts.”

Ed Davey Liberal Democrats MP feels that Begum should be given a chance to return to the UK.

“Membership of a terrorist group is a serious crime, as is encouraging or supporting terrorism, but Shamima Begum should face justice for those crimes in the UK,” Davey said.

In February 2015, Begum had left the UK with school friends Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase. It is believed that Sultana died after a house was blown up. However, whereabouts of Abase are unknown.

Shamima Begum has lost two children previously. Her husband, who was a Dutch and later converted to Islam, is believed to have surrendered to Syrian fighters a few weeks ago.

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ISIS ‘Poster Girl’ Shamima Begum calls Manchester Bombing ‘Justified’

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Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum is the name on everybody’s lips. A young girl, who radicalised in England and joined ISIS, now wants to return to the UK and bring up her baby girl.

British politicians and the army are in heavy debate. There are no clear rules about ISIS members coming home and how to handle it. The public is divided too. Yet after Shamima Begum’s latest statements on the Manchester bombing in 2017, it seems clear she is not very welcomed in the country.

The Manchester bombings took place during Ariana Grande’s concert. 22 people were killed, including children. While Shamima, who may well have been an Ariana Grande fan herself, feels it is awful that innocent people lost their lives, however, she also said the bombing was fairly justified. 

“It’s kind of retaliation,” she told the BBC. “Their justification was that it was retaliation so I thought, okay, that is a fair justification.”

Shamima Begum had left the UK 4 years ago at the age of 15 to join the terror group ISIS. Shamima said she was “okay” with the ISIS’ brutal methods of killing people, including beheading. Another statement that might not go well with the citizens of the UK, as many British journalists and others have lost their lives at the hands of ISIS.

Shamima Begum wants to come home. She is legally British and has asked for forgiveness and sympathy. If she returns to England, she will be returning with her newborn baby, who was born in a Syrian refugee camp a few days back. Apparently, she also had two other children in Syria, both of whom have died.

Shamima insists she never wanted to be an ISIS ‘poster child’ and still has strong feelings about Britain. She initially left for Syria with other teen girls, all from the Bethnal Green Academy. Shamima married an ISIS fighter and has spent four years in Syria.

It is unclear what would happen to the British ISIS fighters, who are either in captivity or in refugee camps. The war in Syria is almost over with the defeat of ISIS imminent. Many fighters want to come home, and US President Donald Trump has asked Britain and the EU to take back their fighters, who have been captured in Syria, and put them on trial.

As per Home Secretary Sajid Javid, for anyone backing terror, the consequences are real. Shamima Begum, even though she was a teenager when she left Britain, must face consequences, especially, when she holds little remorse over the Manchester attack.

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What’s Magnetizing Saudi to Bid for Manchester United Time and Again?

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Saudi Arabia bids to buy Manchester United, premier league

Rumours about Saudi’s bid of taking over the Premier League Club, Manchester United, keep coming out in the media. Recently, it was reported that Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) offered £3.8bn takeover bid of the club.

However, in a statement on Monday the nation dismissed its plans of taking over the club. The news is “completely untrue,” Saudi information minister Turki Alshabanah wrote on Twitter.

According to the sources, “The club held a meeting with the Public Investment Fund to discuss an advertising sponsorship project, and the Fund listened to the proposals as any investment and did not produce any results,” Turki Alshabanah said.

Despite that it cannot be said for how long can Saudi stick by its guns. Even back in October last year, the Kingdom made an offer to acquire the club, but could not capitalize on the opportunity following the claims of murdering Saudi Journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The Need of the Hour

Managing image in the West has been the Kingdom’s topmost priority for a very long time. Even as recently as last week the Journal reported that the nation’s collaboration with the Western media was exposed hoaxing MbS’ reform.

The Crown Prince had reportedly signed a deal with Vice Media, under which the media house was directed to produce documentaries and influence the Western nations.

Manchester United has bagged the coveted Premier League Trophy 13 times, more than any other club in the history, and maybe this is what brings the Saudis to the table. The club is currently owned by Glazer family, who purchased it in 2005 for £790million.

Besides, Saudi’s close aide and long-time ally, UAE, has successfully been spreading their message of positivity all over the world using football as a tool.

This is especially the case because the City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, belongs to the royal family of Abu Dhabi. Together with Khaldoon al-Mubark, his youthful executive and advisor to royal family, he holds the key to delegate how the management works.

In fact, UAE doesn’t stop here, the Emirate has found its own City Football Group (CFG) and it owns or co-owns six clubs across four continents. The group, as reported by the Guardian, has contracted more than 240 male professionals, and two dozen women.

The UAE’s bridge to the West is exactly what the Kingdom aims at replicating by trying to reach Manchester United. Therefore, the probability of owning the club to promote the national image is still on the cards for them.

Conversely, Saudi-UAE have raged a war against humanity in Yemen, killing more than 10,000 people. Both nations have also continuously faced the heat over the detention of human right activists, and for barring people to express what’s right. However, big strides in the West aimed at fixing and building reputation is what the two gulf nations have continuously worked on.

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