The United Arab Emirates Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it hopes to find an “amicable solution” to the case of a British academic jailed for life for spying

“The UAE is determined to protect its important strategic relationship with a key ally,” the ministry said in a statement, a day after PhD student Matthew Hedges was sentenced.

It added, “Officials from both countries have discussed the matter regularly over recent months. Both sides hope to find an amicable solution to the Matthew Hedges case.”

The ministry said that there was “compelling and powerful evidence” against the 31-year-old, who was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport.

“That included information extracted from his personal electronic devices by expert forensic analysis techniques; evidence provided by UAE intelligence agencies; witness testaments and Mr Hedges’ own confession,” said the statement.

Hedges was researching the Gulf state’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011, work that Britain insisted was entirely innocuous in nature.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Wednesday he was “deeply shocked” by the harsh sentence and urged the UAE to reconsider.

– With reporting from Agence France-Presse