British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the UAE on Monday for pardoning a British academic sentenced to life in prison on spying charges, as the Briton’s wife expressed her joy at the news.
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Hedges’s wife Daniela Tejada, who last saw him on the day he was sentenced last week, told BBC radio: “We’re absolutely elated at the news”.
Hedges, a 31-year-old researcher at Durham University, was detained in Dubai on May 5 while researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.
After his sentencing, Hedges’s family had submitted a plea for clemency to UAE authorities.
Britain considers the UAE to be a strategic Middle East ally and supplies the country with arms.
Hedges was among more than 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on the occasion of National Day.
“Mr Hedges will be permitted to leave the UAE once formalities are completed,” an official statement said.
The UAE showed footage at a news conference in which Hedges purportedly confessed to being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent.
A UAE official said that the presidential pardon came in response to a letter by Hedges’s family delivered by a British official.
Hedges was sentenced to life in jail by a court in Abu Dhabi last week after he was convicted of spying for a foreign country.
UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the pardon allowed the two countries to refocus to developing their relations.
“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,” he said in a statement.
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