Matthew Hedges has returned to the United Kingdom after being granted a pardon from a lifetime prison sentence for espionage.
Hedges, a postgraduate student at Durham University, has been released by the United Arab Emirates as part of a series of orders of the country’s National Day anniversary. However, the Gulf nation maintains that Hedges was “100% a secret service operative,” and have released a video with a purported confession from Mr. Hedges, while stating he was working for British intelligence.
Hedges was arrested on May 5, 2018 and reportedly spent the first five months of his incarceration in solitary confinement, with family claiming he was interrogated without a lawyer and that consular access was unavailable during his first six weeks.
A letter signed by 123 academics that called for his release claimed his mental and physical health deteriorated while incarcerated.
“He was forced to sleep on the floor for the first four and a half months after his arrest, denied access to regular showers and prevented from receiving any reading material that might help allay his mental anguish,” read the letter.
Mr. Hedges denied spying and maintains he was researching the Arab Spring on the UAE’s foreign policy and security strategy when he was arrested.