Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old British academic jailed for life on espionage charges last week by the United Arab Emirates, has been granted a presidential pardon by the country’s rulers.
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According to the Guardian, The UAE insisted Hedges was an MI6 agent, and at a press conference showed video footage of 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 release 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, reported the Guardian.
Coincidentally, the UAE celebrates its national day on Sunday and traditionally prisoners are granted pardons on this day.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash 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.
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.