Last week, a 31-year-old British academic, who travelled to Dubai in early May, was accused of ‘jeopardising the military, economy and political security’ of the United Arab Emirates, and was convicted to a life sentence for spying.
On Monday, the UAE pardoned Matthew Hedges, a British national who was sentenced to life imprisonment last week on spying charges, according to a statement by state news agency WAM. UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued the clemency for Hedges as part of the country’s National Day on Sunday.
“Mr. Hedges will be permitted to leave the UAE once formalities are completed,” the statement said.
At a Monday press conference, Emirati officials reportedly showed a video to reporters of Hedges purportedly confessing to being a captain in MI-6 — Britain, however, denied that he was a spy.
Journalists were not allowed to record the clip, reports say.
“The family and I welcome the news of the presidential pardon and cannot wait to have Matt back home,” Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, was cited as saying by Reuters.
Reacting to the news, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that London was grateful to the UAE:
“Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges. Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily”.
Hedges, a 31-year-old doctorate student in Middle Eastern studies at Durham University, was handed down a life sentence for spying last week.
It normally includes a maximum of 25 years in jail and is followed by deportations for non-Emiratis.
He was detained on 5 May at Dubai airports as he was preparing to leave the country, and later accused of spying “for a foreign country and jeopardising the military, political and economic security of the UAE”.