Durham University student given life sentence for spying granted ‘gracious clemency’
Matthew Hedges, the 31-year-old British academic jailed for life on espionage charges last week by the United Arab Emirates, has beens granted a presidential pardon by the country’s rulers.
His release once formalities are completed follows intense lobbying by the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, amid an international outcry that left the UAE scrambling to produce evidence to justify claims that Hedges was a spy.
The UAE at a press conference continued to insist Hedges was an MI6 agent, and showed video supposedly revealing him confessing he had been trying to discover military secrets, including the UAE’s weapons purchases.
The UAE said a “gracious clemency was granted on Sunday in response to a letter from the Hedges family bearing in mind the historic relationship between the UAE and the UK.
His wife, Daniela Tejada, welcomed the statement. “The family and I welcome the news of the presidential pardon and cannot wait to have Matt back home,” she told Reuters.
By coincidence, the UAE celebrates its national day on Sunday when traditionally prisoners are granted pardons.
The UAE is a close trading partner of the UK and its leading political ally in the Gulf, and the Hedges case had the potential to cause a major rift between the two countries.