Brief Encounters with Politics: Release of Student Held for Espionage

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Despite the Brexit debate maintaining its place at the centre of British politics, there was some good news for the government recently due to the release of Matthew Hedges from prison in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Mr Hedges had previously been sentenced to life in prison for espionage, citing his confession that he was an MI6 operative. This confession is believed to have been coerced by his captors.

Mr Hedges claimed he was in the UAE researching for his PhD, as he is a student enrolled at Durham University.

Upon his release, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt remarked that it was the right thing to do as there was no evidence that Mr Hedges had committed an act of espionage during his stay in the Middle East.

Mr Hedges was released on Monday 26th November after a presidential pardon.

His wife Daniela (pictured facing the world’s media below) is said to be ‘elated’ at his return and thanked all those who spoke up to oppose her husband’s imprisonment.

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Despite his release, however, the UAE have maintained that Mr Hedges was an intelligence operative and his confession was, in fact, a valid one. Meanwhile, Mr Hedges has spoken of the traumas he experienced while interred.

The 31-year-old has said that he was not subjected to physical torture, but rather psychological. The Durham University student has asserted that he was interrogated for up to 15 consecutive hours at times and forced to wear ankle cuffs. He was also given a drugs cocktail of Xanax, Valium and Benzodiazepine after begging for medicine for his depression and anxiety. Finally, Mr Hedges claims that the UAE extraordinarily offered him favourable terms if he agreed to work as a double agent for them and stole documents from the Foreign Office.

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In a rare public appearance last week at the University of St Andrew’s, MI6 head Alex Younger, also known as ‘C’ (pictured above), admitted that he was ‘perplexed’ as to why the UAE had thought Mr Hedges a spy and there were ‘frank conversations’ to be had in the future between the UK and the UAE.

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