LONDON: The ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in London said on Friday his government is studying whether to grant clemency to a convicted British academic sentenced to life in prison for espionage.
Ambassador Sulaiman Hamid Almazroui said that academic Matthew Hedges’ family has requested clemency and the government is considering it.
He said the espionage case against the 31-year-old Hedges “was an extremely serious case” and that he had been convicted based on “compelling evidence” after a full and fair judicial process.
“The crimes Mr Hedges was accused of are extremely serious. For the UAE, like all countries, protecting our national security must be our first priority,” he said.
The ambassador denied claims that Hedges received only a brief court hearing before being convicted on very serious charges and said the British academic had proper legal representation in court.
The ambassador says he has met with British officials to discuss the case, which has threatened close ties between the two friendly countries.
Hedges is a PhD student who was arrested on May 5 at Dubai Airport after a research trip to the UAE.
Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a professor of political science in the UAE who is well-connected to Emirati officials, said he believes the government “must” have credible evidence against Hedges.
“I think what they have probably against him is that he does work for a government, with probably name tag, with ranking, with evidence,” he said.
He said some sort of pardon is possible and that the case is unlikely to damage the “hugely important mutually beneficial relationship” between the UAE and Britain.Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday that she believes British authorities are working to free her husband.
Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2018