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Mon 26 Nov 2018 01:51 PM

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Britain says 'grateful' to the UAE for pardoning academic

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expresses gratitude after the UAE pardoned a British academic sentenced to life in prison on spying charges

Britain says 'grateful' to the UAE for pardoning academic
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the UAE on Monday for pardoning a British academic sentenced to life in prison on spying charges, as the Briton's wife expressed her joy at the news.

"Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges. Although we didn't agree with charges we are grateful to UAE govt for resolving issue speedily," Hunt said on Twitter.

Hedges's wife Daniela Tejada, who last saw him on the day he was sentenced last week, told BBC radio: "We're absolutely elated at the news".

Hunt said on BBC radio he now expected Hedges to be released "very soon indeed".

Hedges, a 31-year-old researcher at Durham University, was detained in Dubai on May 5 while researching the UAE's foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

After his sentencing, Hedges's family had submitted a plea for clemency to UAE authorities.

Britain considers the UAE to be a strategic Middle East ally and supplies the country with arms.

Hedges was among more than 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on the occasion of National Day.

"Mr Hedges will be permitted to leave the UAE once formalities are completed," an official statement said.

The UAE showed footage at a news conference in which Hedges purportedly confessed to being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent.

A UAE official said that the presidential pardon came in response to a letter by Hedges's family delivered by a British official.

Hedges was sentenced to life in jail by a court in Abu Dhabi last week after he was convicted of spying for a foreign country.

UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the pardon allowed the two countries to refocus to developing their relations.

"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," he said in a statement.