British student released from jail despite life sentence in UAE over spying for UK government

British student released from jail despite life sentence in UAE over spying for UK government Matthew Hedges, a British PhD student sentenced to life in jail over spying for the UK government, has been released from prison, after being pardoned by the UAE, who says he confessed to being a member of MI6.

Hedges was sentenced to life in prison last week on spying charges in a court in Abu Dhabi. UAE officials have reportedly released a video showing the 31-year-old doctoral student “admitting he’s a member of MI6,” according to the Mirror.

The Durham University student from Exeter in Devon was arrested in the UAE on May 5, after conducting a two-week research project for his doctoral thesis.

Matthew‘s wife Daniela Tejeda, who has maintained that her husband denies all spying charges said: “We welcome news of the presidential pardon and cannot wait to have Matt back home.”

Dr. Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said: “His Highness 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,” according to WAM.

Hedges case sparked a diplomatic row between the UK and UAE, with Tajeda accusing the British government of  “putting their UAE interests above a citizen’s rightful freedom.”

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has welcomed the news of the PhD student’s release, insisting that “Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE govt for resolving issue speedily.”

Hedges’ hearing only lasted five minutes and his lawyer was not present, according to a spokesperson for the family. The student had 30 days to appeal his convictions of spying and sharing sensitive security and intelligence information to third parties.

A life sentence in the UAE includes a maximum of 25 years in jail and can be followed by deportation.

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