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British man arrives home from UAE after having spy conviction pardoned

Matthew Hedges had been sentenced to life in prison.

BRITISH MAN MATTHEW Hedges has arrived in London from the United Arab Emirates after having his conviction for spying pardoned. 

Hedges, a 31-year-old researcher at Durham University, had been sentenced to life in prison just days before he was pardoned. He was detained in Dubai on 5 May at a time when he was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

Jaber al-Lamki, a government media official said that Hedges was “a 100-percent secret service agent and was convicted of espionage”. He said Hedges confessed to gathering information about the UAE ruling family, military and its involvement in the Yemen war.

“He confirmed he collected sensitive and classified information about the UAE,” he said, calling the evidence “irrefutable”.

Yesterday the country’s president pardoned Hedges, a move the government said would now allow the two countries to refocus on developing their relations.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the oil-rich state, which London considers a strategic Middle East ally and supplies with British arms.

“Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges. Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE govt for resolving issue speedily,” Hunt said on Twitter.

Hunt said on BBC radio of the spying charges: “We have never seen any evidence that they are true.”

Hedges’s wife Daniela Tejada, who last saw him on the day he was sentenced, said in a statement: “The presidential pardon for Matt is the best news we could have received. Our six plus months of nightmare are finally over and to say we are elated is an understatement.”

Asked by BBC radio about the UAE’s repeated accusation that Hedges was a spy, Colombia-born Tejada said: “In my heart, I know that he isn’t.”

But she added: “If that’s what it takes for him to be back, I welcome the news.”

- © AFP 2018 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy. 

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