British academic Matthew Hedges, who was jailed for spying in the United Arab Emirates, has been pardoned with immediate effect.

Mr Hedges, 31, denied spying and said he had been researching his PhD, but prosecutors said he confessed.

His wife, Daniela Tejada, who appealed for clemency, said she was “elated” and “can’t wait to have him back home”.

The UAE said the pardon was part of a series of orders issued on the country’s National Day anniversary.

Ms Tejada told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s taken me by surprise and I’m just so happy and so relieved and really incredulous that it is all happening finally.

“It’s been an absolutely nightmarish seven months already and I can’t wait to have him back home.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called the pardon “fantastic news” and said Mr Hedges could be released “very soon”.

He also praised Ms Tejada, describing her as a “determined lady” who had “fought incredibly hard and been to hell and back”.

Prosecutors said Mr Hedges had admitted the charges in an Abu Dhabi court, which found him guilty of “spying for or on behalf of” the UK government, and was jailed for life last week.

Mr Hedges had always said he was innocent, and had been researching the country’s security strategy as part of his PhD studies at Durham University.

The news he was being pardoned came in a press conference, during which the UAE showed a purported confession video from Mr Hedges saying he was a member of MI6.

It is now known if he was speaking under duress or if other factors were at play.

Mr Hunt tweeted: “Fantastic news about Matthew Hedges.

“Although we didn’t agree with charges we are grateful to UAE government for resolving issue speedily.”