‘A sudden and happy surprise’: Wife of British academic Matthew Hedges reacts to his release from prison in UAE

The wife of British academic Matthew Hedges released from prison in the United Arab Emirates has called it a “sudden and happy surprise”.

Daniela Tejada said she had no clue on the details of the decision.

“I have no clue. I hope that the UAE saw it in their hearts to have compassion for Matt and his family.

"Hopefully for me, anyway. I’m just 27 years old, he’s just 30. And we were just starting our lives so I am just thankful this opportunity has been given back to us.”

The 31-year-old was pardoned on Monday after being jailed for life last week on a spying charge.

Mr Hedges, originally from Exeter, was arrested at Dubai Airport as he tried to leave the country on May 5.

When asked what she is most looking forward to now her husband has been released, Ms Tejada said "a winter barbecue that had been postponed in the Spring - hopefully we can catch up on some sleep and have our winter barbecue."

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said the pardon would allow the UAE and UK to "return our focus to the underlying fundamental strength of the UAE-UK bilateral relationship".

The pardon follows several days of diplomatic efforts by the UK, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, to free Mr Hedges.

Following the announcement, Mr Hunt has called his release "fantastic news" and that the UK was grateful to the UAE for resolving the issue "speedily".

Mr Hunt paid tribute to his Mr Hedges' wife Ms Tejada.

"She has been incredibly brave and I was lucky enough to meet her last week. It is fantastic news for the family."

The Foreign Secretary also took the opportunity to reflect on the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who has been detained in Iran for nearly three years.

"She has got a four year old daughter - she's been in prison for more than half of her daughter's life."

"My message to the Iranian authorities is very simple - get Nazanin the medical treatment she urgently needs."

Matthew Hedges with his wife, Daniela Tejada. Credit: Daniela Tejada/PA

Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said: "We welcome the news that Matthew Hedges has been pardoned.

"As we've been clear, we didn't agree with the charges but we are grateful to the UAE government for resolving the issue.

"The Foreign Secretary has been consistent in raising the case at the highest levels, including the Emirati foreign minister, who he spoke to yesterday (Sunday), and the Crown Prince, who he spoke to last week."

Mrs Tejada said earlier on Monday that the pardon was "the best news we could have received".

"That he is returning home to me and the rest of his family is much more than I was ever expecting to happen this week," she said.

"I thank you all for your support. Without the involvement of the media, the overwhelming support of academics, the public worldwide, the work of the British diplomatic body in the UAE and Secretary Hunt's intervention, this would have never happened."

UAE authorities made the announcement at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday morning.

They said President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued the clemency for Mr Hedges on Sunday, along with hundreds of others.

At the press conference, journalists were shown a video of Mr Hedges describing himself as a captain in MI6 during what appears to be a court hearing in the Gulf Arab country.

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said in a statement: "The case against Mr Hedges was predicated on evidence secured from Mr Hedges' electronic devices; surveillance and intelligence gathering by UAE intelligence and security agencies; and evidence provided by Mr Hedges himself - including a corroborated account of asset recruitment and training and the confidential information being targeted."

Daniela Tejada (right) said their 'nightmare' was finally over. Credit: Handout

Dr Anwar said the UAE always hoped the matter "would be resolved through the common channels of our long-standing partnership".

Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor of Durham University, said : "We are absolutely delighted to learn the news of Matt's impending release.

"It is paramount that he is now allowed to return home to Daniela and his family as quickly and safely as possible.

"We will continue to offer Matt's family our full support in the aftermath of this traumatic ordeal and we will be thrilled to welcome him back to the Durham University community."