(ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates) — The United Arab Emirates said on Monday the country has pardoned British academic Matthew Hedges, sentenced to life in prison for spying, and that he will be set free.
The announcement came after authorities showed journalists a video of Hedges purportedly saying he was a captain in British intelligence. The news conference was hastily called in Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital.
Emirati authorities had come under increasing international pressure over Hedges’ life sentence, handed down last week.
According to the announcement, UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued the clemency for Hedges on Sunday, with hundreds of others. Authorities said Hedges will be allowed out of the country once procedures securing his release are complete.
An Emirati official giving the news conference declined to take any questions from journalists.
In the video, Hedges, a 31-year-old doctorate student in Middle Eastern studies at Durham University, is seen describing himself as a captain in MI-6 during what appears to be a court hearing in the Gulf Arab country.
Another clip appears to show Hedges speaking to someone in an office and saying: “It helps the research to go in in an easy way.”
Then, Hedges is seen snapping his fingers and adds: “Then it becomes MI-6.”
Emirati officials did not allow journalists to record the video.