UAE signals jailed UK academic could be freed in 'amicable solution'

Reuters , Friday 23 Nov 2018

United Arab Emirates Ambassador Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui addresses the media at the UAE embassy in London, Britain, November 23, 2018. (Photo: Reuters)

The United Arab Emirates signaled on Friday that a British academic jailed for life on spying charges could be freed after his family appealed for clemency.

Matthew Hedges was sentenced on Wednesday on charges of spying for the British government, in a move described as deeply disappointing by Prime Minister Theresa May.

“Mr Hedges’ family have made a request for clemency and the government is studying that request,” the UAE’s ambassador to London, Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui, said.

“Because of the strength of that relationship we are hopeful that an amicable solution can be reached,” Almazroui said.

The doctoral student at Durham University has been held since May 5, when he was arrested at Dubai International Airport after a two-week research visit.

The Gulf state does not dictate verdicts to its courts and there was full and proper legal process in Hedges’ case, the ambassador said. He said there had not been a “five minute show trial” as he said some media had reported.

“Under UAE law everyone has the right to appeal after conviction and everyone can request a pardon,” Almazroui said.

Hedges’s wife, Daniela Tejada, has asked the UAE to free her husband. She denies he is a spy.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had warned that the verdict could hurt relations with the UAE.

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