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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Pardoned British spy Matthew Hedges lands at London's Heathrow airport

Hedges was granted clemency by the President Sheikh Khalifa on Monday

Matthew Hedges, who was convicted of spying in the UAE, has landed at London's Heathrow Airport. EPA
Matthew Hedges, who was convicted of spying in the UAE, has landed at London's Heathrow Airport. EPA

Matthew Hedges, the Briton found guilty of being a spy by a UAE court, has landed at London's Heathrow airport.

Hedges was granted clemency by the President, Sheikh Khalifa on Monday as part of releasing 1,800 prisoners, on the occasion of National Day.

On arrival, Hedges thanked everyone involved in his release, especially his wife Daniela Tejada.

"I don't know where to begin with thanking people for securing my release," Hedges said in a statement.

"I have not seen or read much of what has been written over the past few days but Dani tells me the support has been incredible."

She added: "I am so happy to have my Matt home. We are overjoyed and exhausted!

"Matt and I, as well as his family, really need some time to process everything that we have been through."

The Briton, who was studying at Durham University, was pardoned after a tense stand-off between the UAE and UK government.

In footage shown at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday, Hedges is filmed saying he is an "active officer" for the British secret service agency MI6.

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A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the family of Hedges "appealed for clemency in a personal letter to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

"The Ministry of Presidential Affairs has subsequently announced that a Presidential Pardon has been issued with immediate effect," it said.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the news, saying that while the British government did not agree with the conviction, he was pleased Hedges would walk free.

Hedges, a PhD student at Durham University in the UK, was convicted by the Federal Court of Appeal on Wednesday for attempting to procure sensitive information during a trip to the UAE this year.

He was arrested on May 5 at Dubai International Airport after a two-week research visit, in which he is said to have asked questions about the UAE ruling families, their networks, classified information on the UAE military and the political role in Yemen.

The case became a political issue in the UK, with Prime Minister Theresa May and Mr Hunt making Hedges' situation a matter for diplomatic relations.

"The UAE is determined to protect its important strategic relationship with a key ally," said Abdullah Al Naqbi, head of the department of legal affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Officials from both countries have discussed the matter regularly over recent months."