UAE considers clemency after British PhD student’s life sentence for spying

Pardoned academic welcomed back to UK by wife, family
Courtesy of the Hedges Family via CNN
Durham University PhD student Matthew Hedges and his wife Daniela Tejada.

The UAE says it is considering a request to pardon Matthew Hedges, the British PhD student handed a life sentence for espionage.

In a statement on Friday, the UAE ambassador to the UK, Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui, said Hedges’ family had filed a request for clemency with the Emirati authorities.

Hedges, 31, was sentenced on Thursday after a five-minute hearing, in a development that appeared to take British authorities by surprise.

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office told CNN that they “hope the UAE will now look favorably on the family’s request for clemency.”

A specialist in Middle Eastern studies at Durham University in England, Hedges was arrested by UAE officials at Dubai International Airport in May.

He was held in solitary confinement for almost six months before being released on bail last month. Hedges and his wife have repeatedly denied the allegations of spying, but prosecutors insist the British academic confessed.

In a short statement, Almazroui dismissed accusations that Hedges had not received a fair trial, while stressing that the strength of his country’s partnership with Britain meant both sides were determined to reach a solution.

“Matthew Hedges was not convicted after a five-minute show trial, as some have reported, ” Almazroui said.

“Over the course of one month, three judges evaluated compelling evidence in three hearings. They reached their conclusions after a full and proper process. This was an extremely serious case.

“We live in a dangerous neighborhood and national security must be a top priority. Mr. Hedges’ family have made a request for clemency and the government is studying that request.”

Daniela Tejada, Hedges’ wife, said the family was now waiting to hear the verdict.

“We have asked for clemency, we will wait to see what happens,”