The British academic recently sentenced to life in prison in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been released after receiving a pardon.
Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD candidate at Durham University, was accused of spying for the UK government whilst in the UAE researching his thesis.
UAE prosecutors said that Hedges had confessed to the charges but the Foreign Office has repeatedly denied that he worked for the British secret services.
Hedges has now returned home after being arrested at Dubai airport in May and reportedly spending 6 months in solitary confinement.
He was greeted by his wife and members of his family after landing at Heathrow airport.
Daniela Tejada, Matthew Hedges’ wife, thanked “friends, family, media, academics, and the wider public” for their support and added that she and Hedges had been “through hell and back,” and “would really appreciate having some space to catch up on much-needed rest.”
The news of Hedges’ release comes after a frantic diplomatic push by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and British diplomats working in the UAE.
Mr. Hunt said in a tweet that the UK is “relieved and delighted” to have the academic home. He also praised the British Ambassador to the UAE and his team in the UAE British Embassy for their “tireless work”.
Ms. Tejada has campaigned for the release of her husband for months, setting up a petition that currently has more than 240,000 signatures.
A number of UK universities, including Durham University and the University of Exeter, began the process of cutting ties with the UAE recently due to the jailing of Hedges. Staff at the University of Birmingham also voted for an academic boycott of a campus in the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Hedges praised his wife after returning home, saying: “[Daniela] is so brave and strong, seeing her and my family after this ordeal is the best thing that could have happened.”