Matthew Hedges, the British PhD student who was sentenced to life in prison for spying in the United Arab Emirates, has been pardoned with immediate effect.
The United Arab Emirates said that the pardon was part of a series of orders issued on the country’s National Day celebration.
On 25 November, the UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, called the UAE’s foreign minister to discuss progress on Mr Hedges’ family’s appeal for clemency. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said that they had had “constructive talks”.
Mr Hedges, a doctoral research student specialising in Middle Eastern politics at Durham University, travelled to the region earlier this year to interview contacts about Middle Eastern foreign policy and security issues.
Preparing for his return home on 3 May, he was detained at Dubai airport and held in solitary confinement for five months. He was eventually released on bail but ordered to remain in the UAE until a court case in Abu Dhabi on 21 November.
Although Mr Hedges denied the charges against him, he was found guilty of “spying for or on behalf of” the UK government and given a life sentence.
Speaking to Times Higher Education last month, Mr Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, said that her husband had been kept in “appalling conditions” without washing facilities or company, and had been suffering from depression and anxiety as a result.
Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor of Durham University, said that he was “absolutely delighted to learn the news of Matt’s impending release”.
“It is paramount that he is now allowed to return home to Daniela and his family as quickly and safely as possible. We will continue to offer Matt’s family our full support in the aftermath of this traumatic ordeal, and we will be thrilled to welcome him back to the Durham University community,” he said.