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Briton on way home from UAE after pardon for spying conviction

Published: Updated:

A British academic was on his way home from the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday after a pardon saved him from a life sentence for spying.

The UAE said it had pardoned Matthew Hedges after showing a video of him confessing to being a member of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency.

Hedges boarded a flight to London in Dubai, according to a Reuters photographer at the airport.

Hedges, a 31-year-old doctoral student at Durham University, had been held since May 5, when he was arrested at Dubai International Airport after a two-week visit.

The UAE president issued the pardon as part of a mass clemency of more than 700 prisoners to mark the country’s National Day.

Minutes before the pardon was announced on Monday, a UAE government spokesman showed journalists a video of Hedges confessing to belonging to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and researching which military systems the UAE was buying.

The spokesman, Jaber al-Lamki, said Hedges was “100 percent a secret service operative” and aimed “to steal the UAE’s sensitive national secrets for his paymasters.”

He said Hedges aimed to gather information on government figures including “members of the UAE’s ruling families and their networks” and economic data related to strategic firms.

Hedges had built an extensive network of contacts while working with Dubai’s Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), then returned to the UAE “on assignment as an undercover student on research trip”, Lamki said.