Jaber al-Lamki, Executive Director for Media and Strategic Communications at the United Arab Emirates' National Media Council, speaks during a press conference announcing the pardon of Matthew Hedges. Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images
The United Arab Emirates has pardoned Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student who was sentenced to life in prison last week on charges of spying for the British government, reports the BBC.
The backdrop: Hedges was arrested in May and — according to family members — forced to confess to being a member of foreign intelligence service MI6, despite denials from both his family and the British government. Hedges was one of 785 prisoners released by the UAE as part of the country's National Day celebration on Dec. 2, though the Emirati government maintains he is "100% a secret service operative," according to a spokesman.