A British student who was jailed for life in Abu Dhabi for spying has been pardoned after ‘confessing to being a member of MI6’. Matthew Hedges, 31, who visited the Middle East to research his PhD thesis, was arrested at Dubai Airport on May 5 and accused of spying for the British Government. He was jailed for life on Wednesday, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt saying he was ‘deeply shocked and disappointed’ with the verdict.
Today tthe country’s president pardoned Hedges, announcing the move during a press conference in Abu Dhabi. It came shortly after the UAE claimed he had confessed to being a member of MI6.
Officials reportedly showed journalists a video during the conference of Hedges saying he was a captain in British intelligence. They said UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued the clemency for Hedges on Sunday with hundreds of others. Authorities say Hedges will be allowed out of the country once procedures securing his release are complete.
The video, which Emirati officials did not allow journalists to record, allegedly shows Hedges describing himself as a captain in MI6 during what appears to be a court hearing in the Gulf Arab country. Another clip appears to show Hedges speaking to someone in an office and saying: ‘It helps the research to go in an easy way.’
Then, Hedges is seen snapping his fingers and adds: ‘Then it becomes MI-6.’ Emirati authorities showed the video after coming under increasing international pressure over Hedges’ life sentence, handed down last week. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter: ‘Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges. ‘Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily. But also a bittersweet moment as we remember Nazanin & other innocent people detained in Iran. Justice won’t be truly done until they too are safely home.’