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  1. ITV Report

Exeter academic arrives back in the UK

Matthew Hedges arrives back in the UK. Photo: PA Images

Exeter academic Matthew Hedges has arrived back in the UK from the United Arab Emirates, where he was jailed for life for spying then given a pardon by the nation's president days later.

A family spokesman confirmed that Mr Hedges has arrived at Heathrow Airport.

The PhD student has thanked everyone involved in "securing my release".

I don't know where to begin with thanking people for securing my release. I have not seen or read much of what has been written over the past few days but Dani tells me the support has been incredible. Thank you so much to the British Embassy and the FCO (Foreign Office) for their efforts in ensuring I arrived safely back home.

I could not have done this without Daniela, I hear her face is everywhere! She is so brave and strong, seeing her and my family after this ordeal is the best thing that could have happened. I thank you all once again, this is very surreal.

– Matthew Hedges

Matthew Hedges was freed on Monday after a high-profile battle with the Gulf state ally, but officials persisted in calling him an MI6 spy - a claim denied by family and colleagues.

Matthew and his wife Daniela are now reunited. Credit: Daniela Tejada/PA Images

I am so happy to have my Matt home! Thank you once again for the overwhelming support we have received, especially from the embassy in the UAE and the Foreign Office in ensuring that Matt was safely returned home. We are overjoyed and exhausted!

Thank you once again as well to the international community and the international media who were very supportive from the beginning. I hope you can all understand that Matt and I, as well as his family, really need some time to process everything that we have been through. No one should ever have to go through what he did and it will take him time to heal and recover. He is very overwhelmed. To say we are happy is an understatement.

– Daniela Tejada

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the pardon would allow the two countries to "return our focus to the underlying fundamental strength of the UAE-UK bilateral relationship", the WAM Emirates news agency reported. Professor Stuart Corbridge, vice-chancellor of Durham University, said staff were "absolutely delighted" to learn of the news.