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British student Hedges, jailed on spying charges, pardoned by UAE President

British student Hedges, jailed on spying charges, pardoned by UAE President

The 31-year-old was sentenced to life imprisonment by a UAE court last week

British student Matthew Hedges, who was convicted by a UAE court on spying charges, has been pardoned by the country’s President with immediate effect.

The 31-year-old, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Wednesday, November 21, will be released from jail and allowed to return home, the UAE announced on Monday.

In a statement, the UAE’s ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation confirmed that following the verdict by the Abu Dhabi Federal Court of Appeals, and the sentencing, Hedges’ family appealed for clemency in a personal letter to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The letter was conveyed by British consular staff to UAE authorities.

Read: UK student Hedges sentenced to life in jail by UAE court on spying charges

The ministry of Presidential Affairs subsequently announced that a presidential Pardon has been issued with “immediate effect”.

“The customary National Day Presidential pardon includes Hedges as part of a tranche of clemency orders issued on the occasion of the UAE’s 47th National Day anniversary. Hedges will be permitted to leave the UAE once formalities are completed,” the statement said.

Also read: UAE President pardons 785 prisoners ahead of National Day

UAE minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash said: “The President’s gracious clemency in 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.

“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.”

Hedges, a PhD student at at Durham University in the UK, was found guilty of “spying for and on behalf of a foreign state and jeopardising the military, economic and political security of the UAE”.

The case against Hedges was based on evidence secured from his electronic devices, surveillance and intelligence gathering by UAE security agencies as well as evidence provided by Hedges himself, “including a corroborated account of asset recruitment and training and the confidential information being targeted”, the statement claimed.

“His recruitment and progress within a foreign intelligence service was authenticated to the court by UAE intelligence agencies,” it added.

“The gracious Presidential customary National Day pardon allows us to close this chapter and to concentrate on the many positive aspects of the relationship,” said Gargash.

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