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Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada
Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada
Image: Daniela Tejada/change.org

UK 'grateful' after UAE issues pardon to British man it had sentenced to life in prison

Hedges had been sentenced to life in prison just last week for spying.
Nov 26th 2018, 8:55 AM 28,013 25

THE UNITED ARAB Emirates (UAE) has pardoned a British researcher who was sentenced last week to life in prison for spying, an official statement said.

Matthew Hedges was among more than 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on the occasion of National Day.

“Mr Hedges will be permitted to leave the UAE once formalities are completed,” the statement said.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed his gratitude at the news.

“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.

The UAE had shown footage at a news conference in which Hedges purportedly confessed to being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent.

A UAE official said that the presidential pardon came in response to a letter by Hedges’s family delivered by a British official.

Hedges was sentenced to life in jail by a court in Abu Dhabi last week after he was convicted of spying for a foreign country.

The UAE 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.

Hedges was arrested on 5 May at Dubai airport.

A lawyer had been appointed to defend Hedges who was also allowed to speak to his family repeatedly during his detention, the official said.

UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the pardon allowed the two countries to refocus to developing their relations.

“It was always a UAE hope that this matter would be resolved through the common channels of our longstanding partnership. This was a straightforward matter that became unnecessarily complex despite the UAE’s best efforts,” he said in a statement.

© AFP 2018

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