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Matthew Hedges PARDONED by UAE

A British academic who was jailed for spying in the United Arab Emirates has been freed after a pardon.

Matthew Hedges, 31, denied spying and said he had been researching his PhD.

His wife, Daniela Tejada, who appealed for clemency, said she was "elated" and "can't wait to have him back home".

The UAE issued the pardon as part of a series of orders on the country's National Day anniversary. However, a spokesman said Mr Hedges was "100% a secret service operative".

During a news conference, a video was shown of a purported confession from Mr Hedges, saying he was a member of MI6.

This accusation was rejected by Ms Tejada, who told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's taken me by surprise and I'm just so happy and so relieved and really incredulous that it is all happening finally.

"It's been an absolutely nightmarish seven months already and I can't wait to have him back home."

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK government had "never seen any evidence" the spying charges were true.

He praised Ms Tejada, describing her as a "determined lady" who had "fought incredibly hard and been to hell and back".

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Prosecutors said Mr Hedges had admitted the charges in an Abu Dhabi court, which found him guilty of "spying for or on behalf of" the UK government, and was jailed for life last week.

Mr Hedges had always said he was innocent, and had been researching the country's security strategy as part of his PhD studies at Durham University.

He has now been released from prison, according to BBC Arabic special correspondent Feras Kilani.

Mr Hunt tweeted: "Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges.

"Although we didn't agree with charges we are grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily."

Via BBC