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
0

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.


Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

Updated 20 February 2019
0

Jordan’s PM appeals for more aid as most Syrian refugees set to stay

  • Jordan PM says most refugees not returning yet
  • Amman says funding crucial to keep economy afloat

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz appealed on Wednesday to major donors to continue multi-billion dollar funding for Syrian refugees in the kingdom, saying most of those who had fled the eight-year conflict had no intention of returning any time soon.
Razzaz told representatives of major Western donors, UN agencies and NGOs that relatively few refugees had gone back since Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s army last summer regained control of southern Syria, where most had fled from.
“The number of refugees that so far returned voluntarily is low and most have no intention of going back any time soon,” Razzaz told a meeting to launch a UN-funded government plan that earmarks $2.4 billion in funding needs for 2019.
Officials say only around 10,000 refugees out of a total estimated at 1.3 million had left since the two countries opened the vital Nassib-Jaber border crossing last October.
Razzaz echoed the UN view that unstable conditions inside Syria, where large-scale destruction, fear of retribution and military conscription has made many reluctant to return.
“We are now entering a new phase of the Syrian crisis, however the impact is still ongoing. The conditions for their return are not present,” Razzaz added.
The prime minister warned against donor fatigue in a protracted crisis where the needs of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians were largely unchanged.
Maintaining funding that covers education, health and crucial services for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and local communities was crucial to ease rising pressures on the debt-burdened economy, he added.
“Aid helped Jordan in staying resilient in a difficult regional setting,” Razzaz said, adding the refugee burden had strained meagre resources such as water and electricity, with a donor shortfall covered from state finances.
Jordan is struggling to rein in record public debt of $40 billion, equivalent to 95 percent of gross domestic product, under a tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity plan.
Major donors say more than $6 billion had been extended to Jordan since 2015, which economists credit for rejuvenating once sleepy northern border towns, while refugee entrepreneurship brought a pool of cheap labor and new skills, triggering a property boom and higher productivity.
The kingdom received around $1.6 billion last year alone.
“The level of funding to Jordan that still remains is exceptional in global comparison,” said UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Anders Pedersen, adding needs had evolved from the humanitarian aid required early in the conflict to development projects that benefit the economy.