British student sentenced to life imprisonment in the UAE for spying has been surprisingly pardoned
Matthew Hedges' pardon comes shortly after Emirati officials released a video of the academic appearing to confess that he is a captain in MI6.
A British academic who had been jailed for life for spying in the UAE has been pardoned, officials of both the countries confirmed on Monday.
Thirty one-year-old Matthew Hedges, a specialist in Middle Eastern studies at Durham University, had reportedly appeared in court in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday last week for a hearing which lasted "less than five minutes", according to reports. The presidential pardon came nearly six months after his arrest at Dubai Airport, and it was reported he has been released from prison.
Hedges' wife, Daniela Tejada, while responding to the news of his release, said: "The family and I welcome the news of the presidential pardon and cannot wait to have Matt back home.”
“It’s taken me by surprise and I’m just so happy and so relieved and really incredulous that it is all happening finally. It’s been an absolutely nightmarish seven months already and I can’t wait to have him back," she said, according to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Hedges' pardon comes shortly after Emirati officials released a video of the academic appearing to confess that he is a captain in MI6. Tajeda, however, rejected UAE's claim, and said: "In my heart, I know that he isn't."
The presidential pardon for Matt is the best news we could’ve received. Thank you friends, family, media, academics, and the wider public for your undivided support - I’ve been brought back to life. pic.twitter.com/vruok0ST6O— Daniela Tejada (@dtejadav) November 26, 2018
When Tajeda was asked how she felt about her husband being pardoned, instead of the UAE government doing away with his spying charge, she said: "If that is what it takes for him to be back I just welcome the news.”
Hedges, a few weeks before the sentencing, had reportedly said that he was being kept in solitary confinement in the UAE, which left him suicidal after prison conditions gave him severe anxiety and panic attacks.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had released a statement after the initial sentencing, saying he was "deeply shocked" by the life sentence handed to Hedges, which reportedly carries a maximum term of 25 years. Hunt warned of "repercussions" which could arise after the sentencing.
Hunt, in a fresh statement after Monday's ruling, said that Hedges' release was fantastic news.
Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges.Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE govt for resolving issue speedily.But also a bittersweet moment as we remember Nazanin &other innocent ppl detained in Iran.Justice won’t be truly done until they too are safely home.— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) November 26, 2018
"Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges. Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily. But also a bittersweet moment as we remember Nazanin & other innocent people detained in Iran. Justice won’t be truly done until they too are safely home," Hunt wrote on Twitter.
The official Emirates News Agency reported that the academic was granted a presidential pardon after his family appealed for clemency, adding that the "customary National Day Presidential pardon” included Hedges as part of a tranche of clemency orders issued “on the occasion of the UAE’s 47th National Day anniversary. Mr Hedges will be permitted to leave the UAE once formalities are completed.”