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‘Fantastic news’: Britain welcomes UAE pardon for jailed academic

Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada [Family handout]
Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada [Family handout]

Britain today said it was grateful to the United Arab Emirates after it pardoned a British academic jailed on spying charges.

The UAE said it had pardoned Matthew Hedges as part of its annual National Day amnesties just minutes after showing a video of him purportedly confessing to being a member of Britain’s intelligence agency MI6. Britain has denied he was a spy.

“Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said. “Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily.”

Hedges’ release is part of a UAE National Day pardon of 785 prisoners.

Commenting on the verdict and Presidential Pardon, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash said: “The customary National Day pardons allows us to return our focus to the underlying fundamental strength of the UAE/UK bi-lateral relationship and its importance to the international community.”

READ: Britain ‘optimistic’ about case of academic jailed in UAE

“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.”

“The case against Mr. Hedges was predicated on evidence secured from Mr. Hedges electronic devices; surveillance and intelligence gathering by UAE intelligence and security agencies; and evidence provided by Mr. Hedges himself – including a corroborated account of asset recruitment and training and the confidential information being targeted. His recruitment and progress within a foreign intelligence service was authenticated to the Court by UAE Intelligence Agencies,” the statement continued.

Hedges, a 31-year-old doctoral student at Durham University, has been held in the UAE since 5 May, when he was arrested at Dubai International Airport after a two-week research visit. He was handed a life term last week.

READ: UK universities boycott UAE over student ‘spying’ conviction

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