Spy-accused academic Matthew Hedges pardoned in UAE

British academic Matthew Hedges, who was last week jailed for life in the United Arab Emirates on a spying charge, has been pardoned.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the news, announced at a press conference in the UAE on Monday, was “fantastic”.

The 31-year-old, originally from Exeter, was arrested at Dubai Airport as he tried to leave the country on May 5.

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said the pardon would allow the UAE and UK to “return our focus to the underlying fundamental strength of the UAE-UK bilateral relationship”, the WAM Emirates news agency reported.

Dr Gargash said: “His highness the president’s gracious clemency in the customary National Day pardons allows us to return our focus to the underlying fundamental strength of the UAE-UK bilateral relationship and its importance to the international community.

“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.”

Mr Hunt said news of Mr Hedges’s pardon was “bittersweet” given that Briton Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains detained in Iran, also accused of spying.

He tweeted: “Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges. Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE govt for resolving issue speedily. But also a bittersweet moment as we remember Nazanin & other innocent ppl detained in Iran. Justice won’t be truly done until they too are safely home.”