British Researcher Matthew Hedges

The United Arab Emirates on Monday pardoned a British researcher who was sentenced last week to life in prison for spying in a case that shocked Britain.

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Matthew 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.

The UAE official said that Hedges was “a 100-percent secret service agent and was convicted of espionage.”

He said Hedges confessed to gathering information about the UAE ruling family, military and its involvement in the Yemen war.

Hedges was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport.

A lawyer had been appointed to defend Hedges who was also allowed to speak to his family repeatedly during his detention, the official said.

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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.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the UAE.

“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.

– AFP

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