UAE pardons Briton Matthew Hedges after spying life sentence

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed his gratitude to the UAE for the release of student Matthew Hedges (pictured right) and his wife Daniela Tejada posing in London after Daniela's MA Graduation ceremony. (File/HO/Daniela Tejada/AFP)
Updated 26 November 2018
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UAE pardons Briton Matthew Hedges after spying life sentence

  • Matthew Hedges receives presidential pardon as part of UAE National Day celebrations
  • Government spokesman says Hedges was "100%" full time secret service operative

DUBAI: The British national jailed for life in the UAE for spying has been granted a presidential pardon with immediate effect.

Matthew Hedges was detained on May 5 and was sentenced to life in prison by a UAE court on Nov. 21, 2018.

Reacting to the news his wife Daniele Tejada, who maintains that he was innocent, said she was “absolutely elated” that he had received a pardon, adding that she “cannot wait to have Matt back home.”

She said: “I can't wait to have him back.”

During the announcement Emirati officials said the coviction was on solid ground and showed video clips in which Hedges described his apparent intelligence work with MI6 - the British secret service.
“He was a part-time PhD researcher, a part-time businessman, but he was a 100-percent a full-time secret service operative,” said Jaber Al-Lamki, an official with the UAE's National Media Council.

“Mr Hedges has been found guilty of espionage. He sought out sensitive information he knew had access to it. He was here to steal the UAE’s sensitive national security secrets for his paymasters,” Al-Lamki added.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt described the announcement of his release as “fantastic news.” And he said the British government was grateful to the UAE for resolving the issue in a speedy fashion.

 

Hunt said Britain did not agree with the charges against Hedges. “We've seen no evidence to support these accusations,” Hunt said, adding that the UK is “deeply perplexed” by the charges.
Hunt had lobbied senior UAE officials for Hedges' release.

The presidential pardon is one of 785 as part of the UAE National Day celebrations state news agency WAM reported, adding that Hedges would leave the country once formalities were completed.

Hedge’s case has received widespread coverage in British and international media, as well as comments from various figureheads

Commenting on the verdict and Presidential Pardon, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash said: “His Highness the President’s gracious clemency in the customary National Day pardons allows us to return our focus to the underlying fundamental strength of the UAE/UK bi-lateral relationship and its importance to the international community.

“It was always a UAE hope that this matter would be resolved through the common channels of our longstanding partnership. This was a straightforward matter that became unnecessarily complex despite the UAE’s best efforts.”

He said the case against Hedges had relied on evidence that included the accused’s own “electronic devices; surveillance and intelligence gathering by UAE intelligence and security agencies; and evidence provided by Mr Hedges himself – including a corroborated account of asset recruitment and training and the confidential information being targeted. His recruitment and progress within a foreign intelligence service was authenticated to the Court by UAE Intelligence Agencies.”

 


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.