Matthew Hedges has been given a ‘presidential pardon’ in UAE with immediate effect.
The Durham PhD student was sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘spying’ following a brief court hearing in Abu Dhabi last week.
The 31-year-old had been reportedly held in solitary confinement for nearly six months, after being arrested on May 5th at Dubai Airport but was released on bail earlier this month.
Matthew has always denied the charges against him but the prosecutors have previously said that he signed a confession.
The UAE reportedly showed a video of Matthew’s confession at a press conference, which reveals him admitting to trying to discover military secrets.
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.
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) November 26, 2018
A petition to free Matthew was started by his wife, Daniela Tejada, and has almost 250,000 signatures.
In a statement, Daniela said: “The presidential pardon for Matt is the best news we could have received. Our 6 plus months of nightmare are finally over and to say we are elated is an understatement.
“That he is returning home to me and the rest of his family is much more than I was ever expecting to happen this week. I thank you all for your support.
“Without the involvement of the media, the overwhelming support of academics, the public worldwide, the work of the British diplomatic body in the UAE and Secretary Hunt’s intervention, this would have never happened.
“I ask for some time to process the news and I will be making more statements in the coming days. Thank you all once again.”
Officials have said that Matthew will be free to leave the country once the formalities are sorted.
Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, Professor Stuart Corbridge, said: “We are 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.”
Photograph: Daniela Tejada