British academic pardoned after UAE conviction for spying and life sentence

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Jaber al Lamki, Executive Director of Media and Strategic Communications of the UAE, talks about the Matthew Hedges circumstance during a press convention in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Karla Adam

London correspondent covering the United Kingdom

LONDON — A British educational who was jailed for lifestyle in the United Arab Emirates on spying costs been given a presidential pardon Monday, following UAE officers showed films of him purportedly confessing to becoming a British intelligence agent.

Matthew Hedges, 31, a doctoral student at Durham University, was convicted of espionage on Nov. 21 but reported he was in the UAE exploring his PhD.

At a information meeting Monday, UAE officials performed brief video clips of what they said was a confession by Hedges, in which he said he was a “captain” in MI6, Britain’s overseas intelligence company. That rank does not exist in the agency.

British International Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the news but claimed Britain does not concur with the fees.

“Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges,” Hunt reported on Twitter. “Although we did not agree with prices we are grateful to UAE federal government for resolving concern speedily.”

The pardon was issued with instant outcome. Hedges is to be introduced when formalities are concluded.



British academic Matthew Hedges, who has been jailed for spying in the UAE, is seen in this undated selfie picture with his wife Daniela Tejada when on getaway in Thailand. (Handout/Reuters)

Prior to saying the pardon, the UAE defended its assertion that Hedges was spying on behalf of the British federal government.

“He was a portion-time PhD researcher, portion-time businessman, but he was a hundred % a comprehensive-time secret support operative,” said Jaber al-Lamki, a spokesman for the UAE government. “He was here to steal the UAE’s delicate nationwide safety techniques for his paymasters,” Lamki explained at a news convention broadcast dwell on British television.

The online video clips showcasing Hedges were not broadcast dwell but were being proven to journalists in a shut-door assembly.

UAE officers explained the pardon came in response to a letter from Hedges’s loved ones to UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan asking for clemency. He was just one of 785 people pardoned on Monday forward of the country’s countrywide working day.

Hedges’s wife, Daniela Tejada, explained the pardon as “the ideal information we could’ve received” and thanked the public and buddies for their aid.

“I’ve been brought again to life,” she tweeted.

Hedges was arrested Could five at Dubai’s airport as he was leaving the place right after a two-7 days excursion that his university and relatives say was to investigation Emirati stability and foreign policy for his PhD thesis.

Right after many months in detention, significantly of it in solitary confinement, authorities billed Hedges in Oct with espionage.

A choose handed down a everyday living sentence all through a 5-minute court docket session Wednesday in Abu Dhabi.

Hunt, the British foreign secretary, reported at the time that this was not a verdict anticipated from a near ally and warned there would be repercussions to the relationship.

Pursuing the pardon, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, mentioned it was time for the two nations around the world to go on.

“The gracious presidential customary national working day pardon enables us to near this chapter and to concentrate on the a lot of favourable facets of the partnership,” he stated, in accordance to the point out news company.

The UAE explained the conviction was based mostly on proof taken from Hedges’s digital units, product collected by security products and services and information and facts supplied by Hedges himself.

The displaying of sections of Hedges’s testimony to journalists forward of the announcement of his pardon appeared to be created to justify the conviction.

Paul Schemm contributed to this report.

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