The United Arab Emirates on Monday pardoned British academic Matthew Hedges, who last week was sentenced to life in prison for espionage.
UAE officials maintained that Hedges was guilty, telling reporters he was “100 percent a full-time secret service operative,” and showing videos of Hedges purportedly confessing to working for Britain’s MI-6 intelligence agency.
Reporters were not allowed to record any of the videos.
An official announcement said Hedges was among more than 700 people pardoned to mark the UAE’s National Day.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain does not agree with the charges against Hedges, but is grateful to the UAE “for resolving issue speedily.”
Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, welcomed the pardon.
“The presidential pardon for Matt is the best news we could have received. Thank you friends, family, media, academics, and the wider public for your undivided support — I’ve been brought back to life,” she wrote on Twitter.
Hedges, a student at Britain’s Durham University, was sentenced last week Wednesday after a five-minute court appearance.
He was detained at Dubai Airport on May 5 and accused of spying in the UAE. Authorities said the Ph.D. student’s research in the country for his thesis on the Gulf state’s security and internal policies following the Arab Spring was a pretext for carrying out surveillance for a “foreign agency.”
Hedges, who was born and grew up in the UAE, was detained after interviewing local officials for his theses. According to local media, one of them became suspicious and reported him. Britain has clashed with UAE rulers in recent weeks over its human rights record and its role in the war in Yemen, where its forces have been part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels.(VOA)