Initially sentenced to life in prison for spying, Matthew Hedges was released on Monday after receiving pardon from UAE.

British academic Matthew Hedges, who was jailed for spying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has arrived in the United Kingdom a day after being pardoned by the Emirati president, ending a seven-month ordeal.

A flight carrying the 31-year-old scholar landed at London’s Heathrow airport on Tuesday morning, according to Reuters news agency.

Abu Dhabi’s Federal Court of Appeal had sentenced the British scholar to life in prison last week after he was convicted of spying and supplying sensitive security information to external actors.

He was among more than 700 people pardoned by President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Monday, the country’s national day.

Emirati officials made a point on Monday to insist that the arrest came on solid grounds, showing journalists in Abu Dhabi short video clips of Hedges purportedly acknowledging his intelligence work.

In one video clip, Hedges is seen describing himself as a captain in MI-6 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 officials did not allow journalists to record the video.

“He was a part-time PhD researcher, a part-time businessman, but he was a 100 percent 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. He sought out sensitive information he knew had access to it. He was here to steal the UAE’s sensitive national security secrets for his paymasters,” al-Lamki added.

Daniela Tejada, Hedges’ wife, said on Twitter that the pardon was the “best news we could’ve received” but told the BBC that she did not believe her husband is a spy.

“I can’t wait to have him back,” she said. “In my heart, I know that he isn’t a spy.”

 

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