By Mustafa Kemel
ABU DHABI (AA) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday issued a presidential pardon for U.K. national Matthew Hedges, who was sentenced to life in prison last week after being convicted on espionage charges, the UAE’s official WAM news agency reported.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that, following the court verdict and sentencing, the family of Mr. Hedges appealed for clemency in a personal letter to [UAE] President [and Emir of Abu Dhabi] His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” the ministry said in a statement carried by WAM.
“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs has subsequently announced that a presidential pardon has been issued with immediate effect by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa…,” it added.
The ministry went on to assert that Hedge’s pardon had come as part of “a tranche of clemency orders issued on the occasion of the UAE’s 47th National Day anniversary”.
Hedges, it added, would be permitted to leave the UAE “once formalities are completed”.
Remarking on the move, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash was quoted as saying on Monday that the “gracious” presidential pardon “allows us to close this chapter and concentrate on the many positive aspects” of the U.K.-UAE relationship.
Hedges, 31, a PhD student from the U.K.’s Durham University, was arrested at the Dubai International Airport in May after a two-week working visit to the Arab Gulf country.
Last month, the authorities referred him to Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court on charges of “spying” and “passing sensitive military, political and economic information to a foreign entity”.
Last Wednesday, the court sentenced Hedges to life in prison after convicting him of espionage charges.
Immediately before his arrest, Hedges had been researching the effects of the 2011 Arab Spring on the UAE’s foreign policy, according to local media reports.