LONDON — Matthew Hedges, the British academic who was sentenced last week to life in prison by the United Arab Emirates on spying charges, was pardoned on Monday with immediate effect, the state news media reported.
The conviction of Mr. Hedges, and the severity of the sentence, had been met with outrage in Britain, where Prime Minister Theresa May promised to raise the issue at the “highest level” with the United Arab Emirates.
According to the state news agency, WAM, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs said that Mr. Hedges, 31, had been pardoned by Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates.
“Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges,” the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said on Twitter. “Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily.”
The pardon “allows us to return our focus to the underlying fundamental strength of the U.A.E.-U.K. bilateral relationship and its importance to the international community,” said Anwar Mohammed Gargash, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, according to WAM. “It was always a U.A.E. 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 U.A.E.’s best efforts.”
WAM reported that the case against Mr. Hedges was based on evidence found on his electronic devices, surveillance and intelligence gathered by Emirati agencies, and what the news agency reported was evidence Mr. Hedges himself had provided.
That evidence, WAM said, included “a corroborated account of asset recruitment and training and the confidential information being targeted.”
Mr. Hedges, who colleagues said was conducting research for a doctorate about the effects of the Arab Spring on the United Arab Emirates’ approach to diplomacy, was arrested in May just before he was scheduled to fly out of the country.
The Associated Press reported that Emirati officials showed a video of Mr. Hedges saying he was a captain for MI-6, the British foreign intelligence service.
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