LONDON: British academic Matthew Hedges returned to London on Tuesday a day after the UAE pardoned his life sentence for spying.
Britain on Monday thanked the UAE after he was among more than 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed for next month’s National Day.
“After almost seven months of detention, including six months in solitary confinement, British PhD researcher Matthew Hedges has returned safely back to London,” his family said in a statement.
He was welcomed back to Britain by his wife Daniela Tejada and other members of his family.
“I don’t know where to begin with thanking people for securing my release,” Hedges said in the 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.”
Welcome home Matt Hedges! The whole country is relieved and delighted to have you home. Thanks to @PatrickMoodyFCO and the FCO team in UAE for your tireless work behind the scenes to make today possible
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) November 27, 2018
He thanked the British embassy in the United Arab Emirates, the Foreign Office and especially his wife for their efforts in securing his release.
“She is so brave and strong. Seeing her and my family after this ordeal is the best thing that could have happened,” Hedges said.
“I thank you all once again. This is very surreal.”
The UAE showed footage at a news conference in the capital Abu Dhabi in which Hedges purportedly confessed to being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the UAE, a strategic ally.
“I am so happy to have my Matt home,” Tejada said on Tuesday. “We are overjoyed and exhausted!"
Hedges, a 31-year-old researcher at Durham University, was detained while researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.
He was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport.
He was sentenced to life in jail by a court in Abu Dhabi last week after he was convicted of spying for a foreign country.
UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the pardon allowed the two countries to refocus on developing relations.