British PhD student Matthew Hedges, convicted as a spy and handed a life sentence last week by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been pardoned with immediate effect, it was announced this morning.
The UAE freed Hedges as part of its National Day clemency tradition, state media reported.
The decision follows “constructive” talks with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt over freeing the 31-year-old after he was handed a life sentence last week, reportedly after a hearing that lasted just five minutes.
Hunt said on Twitter: "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."
Hedges' wife, Daniela Tajada, had accused the British government of putting foreign relations above her husband's freedom, but following discussions between her and the foreign office, Hunt claimed it was "now standing up for" the Durham University academic.
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
Tajada told the BBC's Today programme: "It's taken me by surprise and I'm just so happy and so relieved and really incredulous that it is all happening finally.
"It's been an absolutely nightmarish seven months already and I can't wait to have him back home."
It comes after the UAE's London embassy said last Friday that the UAE was considering clemency for Hedges, who was arrested at Dubai airport as he prepared to fly home in May.
"Because of the strength of that relationship we are hopeful that an amicable solution can be reached," ambassador Sulaiman Almazroui said.
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “This is a huge relief and goes some way to righting a wrong after Matthew’s grossly unfair trial. Now Matthew needs to be speedily released and allowed to return to the UK.
“Matthew’s ordeal is a reminder that the UAE is a deeply repressive country which ruthlessly suppresses free speech and peaceful criticism, and we should spare a thought for Emirati prisoners of conscience like Ahmed Mansoor or Mohammed al-Roken who aren’t getting a pardon today.
“The scales will surely fall from the UK Government’s eyes now, with ministers and officials urgently reassessing the UK’s entire relationship with the UAE. We’d like to see a far more robust position from the UK in defence of human rights across the entire Gulf region.”