United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan pardoned 785 prisoners on Tuesday, including a British citizen who had been sentenced to life in prison last week.
The pardon came on the UAE’s National Day, in which the government said, “The release of prisoners, and the settlement of their debts and fines, reflects the President’s keenness to grant them another chance for a new life and to relieve their families hardships.”
Matthew Hedges, a doctoral student, had been convicted of spying on behalf of the British government while he was in the UAE researching his PhD thesis. Human Rights Watch reported that before his trial, Hedges was detained without legal counsel and kept in solitary confinement.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called Hedges’ release “fantastic.” He also denied any allegations of Hedges spying for the British government.
In August the UN accused the UAE along with Saudi Arabia and the government of Yemen of committing potential war crimes in Yemen. In July the International Court of Justice found the UAE in violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.