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UK PM May’s spokesman welcomes pardon of academic Hedges by UAE

Reuters , Monday 26 Nov 2018
Hedges
n this file photo taken on November 23, 2018 A handout picture taken in 2016 and released by the family of Matthew Hedges in London on November 23, 2018, shows British student Matthew Hedges posing at his home in Exeter (Photo: AFP)
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Britain Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman welcomed the pardon of British academic Matthew Hedges by the United Arab Emirates on Monday.

The United Arab Emirates on Monday pardoned and released Hedges, jailed for life on spying charges, by granting a request for clemency.

UAE President and Abu Dhabi ruler Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued the clemency for Hedges on Sunday, along with over 780 others to mark the country's forthcoming National Day.

Emirati officials insisted they had developed a strong case against Hedges.

At a meeting of journalists convened in Abu Dhabi on Monday, the UAE capital, officials showed short video clips of Hedges purportedly acknowledging his intelligence work.

``He was a part-time PhD researcher, a part-time businessman, but he was a 100-percent a full-time secret service operative,'' said Jaber al-Lamki, an official with the UAE's National Media Council.

``Mr. Hedges has been found guilty of espionage,'' al-Lamki added. ``He was here to steal the UAE's sensitive national security secrets for his paymasters.''

In his statement, al-Lamki said Hedges had routine access to doctors and lawyers, while British Embassy officials attended his court hearing.

Daniela Tejada, Hedges' wife, told the BBC she couldn't wait to have him back, calling the time since his May 5 arrest at Dubai International Airport ``an absolutely nightmarish seven months.''

``In my heart, I know that he isn't a spy,'' she said.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also welcomed the decision on Hedges, tweeting it was ``fantastic news.''

He said Britain did not agree with the charges against Hedges but added that it is ``grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily.''

``We've seen no evidence to support these accusations,'' Hunt said, adding that the U.K. is ``deeply perplexed'' by the charges.

The Emirates' state-run WAM news agency alleged Hedges sought information for British intelligence on weapons systems, economic data, details about the UAE's war in Yemen and ``sensitive information on key government figures, including members of the UAE ruling families and their networks.''

Hedges' research for Durham University focused on security issues.

On Wednesday, a closed session of the Federal Appeals Court of Abu Dhabi found Hedges guilty and sentenced him to life in prison.

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