Richard Ratcliffe, whose wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving prison sentence in Iran
Despite being released a year ago, it is only now that Matthew Hedges has been able to begin seeking counselling for the post-traumatic stress disorder he was left with after his interrogation and six months in solitary confinement.
The revelations emerge as his wife, Daniela Tejada, joins forces with Richard Ratcliffe – the husband of Nazanin Ratcliffe who is still being held in Iran – and other relatives to demand that the Government enshrine the protection of British citizens jailed abroad.
Ms Tejada has accused the Foreign Office of “apathy”, insisting it failed to act until she started a campaign to raise awareness about his plight.
Yesterday she revealed the hell of his imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates did not end with his release in November last year.
“This has been a very tough year for him and us as a family. A lot of scars had to heal and open wounds are still being addressed,” she said.
“Matt was finally able to start therapy three weeks ago. He has PTSD, depression and anxiety.
“For some time he couldn’t bear crowded places, which was challenging in London.
“He had massive anxiety, panic attacks, deep depression, permanent exhaustion and an unwillingness to leave the house.
“He’s having trouble sleeping and is dependant on the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills that were forced into him while in prison. He was given nearly ten times the recommended NHS dose.
“That’s a form of physical torture and will be carried by him for years.”
Mr Ratcliffe’s wife, Nazanin was given a five-year prison sentence in Iran
Mr Hedges was arrested in May last year as he was about to leave Dubai after a two-week research trip into Middle Eastern security issues for his PhD thesis.
He was convicted of “seeking confidential information about the UAE” after claims he had confessed to the charges. He was initially sentenced to life imprisonment but pardoned in November last year.
But Ms Tejada said his ordeal could have ended much sooner had the Foreign Office decided to take his case seriously.
“Of his seven months, six were greeted by apathy by the Foreign Office,” she said. “I’m sure most people think the Government was using back channels during those six months. They weren’t.
“Despite my efforts, they did not take action until I decided to run a public campaign. Suddenly the Foreign Secretary and MPs in parliament were talking about him.
“It’s not that the Government is incapable of acting – they’ve shown they can move heaven and earth once a campaign hits social media.
“It only took a phone call to get him released in the end.
“But families shouldn’t need to campaign before their Government takes notice.”
Richard Ratcliffe with daughter Gabriella
The new campaign, British Rights Abroad, calls for the Government to make it a law that it must defend citizens’ rights abroad “above all other interests”.
Ms Tejada said: “Currently, any form of consular assistance is discretionary. “The FCO has full reign to decide which cases are worthy of its attention. This is often very politicised.
“That’s why we started our coalition of families and a petition. It isn’t about imposing British values on the rest of the world and it’s not about innocence or guilt – that’s not for the FCO to judge.
“This law will give every UK citizen solace that the Government is doing its utmost to defend rights abroad and no political or economic interests can override this.
“We think it will set a precedent for more vigorous work from the FCO – that’s the most important thing. It’s shocking the Government isn’t already doing this.”
Ms Tejada said she has had to quit her job and leave their home in London to be near family in Devon.
A petition on change.org is being backed by Richard Ratcliffe whose wife, Nazanin, is currently imprisoned in Iran on spying charges.
Yesterday he told how their daughter, Gabriella, is beginning to adjust to life in Britain after being allowed to leave by the regime.
Richard Ratcliffe calls for wife Nazanin’s release from prison
“We’re about to face our fourth Christmas without Nazanin,” he said. “We now have Gabriella back but there’s a lot of dislocation and disorientation to deal with.
“We spent a lot of time telling her she’d be coming home with mummy. Now it hasn’t happened, it weighs heavy.
“She’s having to build up trust with a daddy that wasn’t around for bed times. Knowing mummy isn’t nearby is a big gap to fill.” He added: “It was incredible to learn how discretionary Government help is. You and I have no rights. Only the Government has rights. It’s bonkers.
“The FCO is deeply reactive. You have to force their hand.
“It’s like dealing with an insurance company that doesn’t want to take your claim.”
The FCO said: “Foreign Office staff and Ministers worked incredibly hard on Matthew’s case.
“We are delighted he was able to return to the UK to be reunited with his wife Daniela and his family.
“Then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt raised Matthew’s case on multiple occasions at senior levels in the Emirati government. He met Dan- iella during Matthew’s detention and both of them after his release.”