Briton Matthew Hedges returns to London after UAE spying pardon

Matthew Hedges was met at the airport by his wife Daniela Tejada. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2018
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Briton Matthew Hedges returns to London after UAE spying pardon

  • Hedges was pardoned by the UAE on Monday after receiving a life sentence for spying
  • Welcomed by his wife Daniela Tejada and other members of his family

LONDON: British academic Matthew Hedges returned to London on Tuesday a day after the UAE pardoned his life sentence for spying.
Britain on Monday thanked the UAE after he was among more than 700 prisoners pardoned by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed for next month’s National Day.
“After almost seven months of detention, including six months in solitary confinement, British PhD researcher Matthew Hedges has returned safely back to London,” his family said in a statement.
He was welcomed back to Britain by his wife Daniela Tejada and other members of his family.
“I don’t know where to begin with thanking people for securing my release,” Hedges said in the statement.
“I have not seen or read much of what has been written over the past few days but Dani tells me the support has been incredible.”

He thanked the British embassy in the United Arab Emirates, the Foreign Office and especially his wife for their efforts in securing his release.
“She is so brave and strong. Seeing her and my family after this ordeal is the best thing that could have happened,” Hedges said.
“I thank you all once again. This is very surreal.”
The UAE showed footage at a news conference in the capital Abu Dhabi in which Hedges purportedly confessed to being an MI6 foreign intelligence agent.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed gratitude to the UAE, a strategic ally.
“I am so happy to have my Matt home,” Tejada said on Tuesday. “We are overjoyed and exhausted!"
Hedges, a 31-year-old researcher at Durham University, was detained while researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.
He was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport.
He was sentenced to life in jail by a court in Abu Dhabi last week after he was convicted of spying for a foreign country.
UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the pardon allowed the two countries to refocus on developing relations.


Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

Syrian pro-government forces hold a position near the village of al-Malihah, in the northern countryside of Deir Ezzor, on September 9, 2017, during the ongoing battle against Daesh group. (AFP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Syria media says no attack on airport after reported air defense fire

  • The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said Sunday that air defenses had opened fire near Damascus airport, before withdrawing the report after what appeared to be a false alarm.
“Our air defenses engaged hostile aerial targets in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport,” the official SANA news agency said, without providing more details.
But the report was later withdrawn by both SANA and state television without explanation.
SANA then quoted sources at the airport as saying that “there was no aggression” and that “traffic was normal.”
A well-informed source told AFP that “there was evidently a false alarm.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the sound of explosions rocked an area close to the airport and fire from air defenses was also heard.
The latest incident comes just over a week after Syria accused Israel of striking south of the capital.
The Britain-based Observatory said those were the first missiles to hit Syria since an air defense upgrade after the downing of a Russian plane in September.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian targets, many of them in the area south of Damascus.
Iran and Russia are the government’s key allies in the civil war that has raged Syria since 2011, and Moscow’s intervention in 2015 dramatically turned the tables against the rebels.
The accidental downing of a Russian transport aircraft by Syrian ground batteries during an Israel air strike on September 17 killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the downing on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian one for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system, which Damascus insisted would make Israel “think carefully” before carrying out further air raids.
The move raised fears in Israel that its ability to rein in its arch foe Iran’s military presence in Syria would be sharply reduced.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia that Israel would continue to hit hostile targets, while also maintaining “security coordination” with Moscow.