Only Omar al-Bashir can pardon her

KHARTOUM - Only Sudan's president has the power to pardon a British teacher sentenced to 15 days imprisonment for insulting Islam, said the justice minister yesterday as British Muslim parliamentarians pushed to meet the Sudanese leader.

KHARTOUM - Only Sudan's president has the power to pardon a British teacher sentenced to 15 days imprisonment for insulting Islam, said the justice minister yesterday as British Muslim parliamentarians pushed to meet the Sudanese leader.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Lord Nazir Ahmed of the House of Lords moved into a second day of meetings with Sudanese officials early yesterday with an eventual goal of obtaining a pardon for Gillian Gibbons from President Omar al-Bashir.

"Any early pardon would be the exclusive prerogative of the president. I can't talk any more about it," Justice Minister Ali al-Mardhi told the Associated Press.

He said he had only just returned from a meeting in Cairo the night before and had yet to meet the British delegation.

The British embassy, which says the British peers are on a private visit, said Gibbons was in good health.

"The ambassador called on Gibbons this morning and she was fine," said Omar Daair, embassy spokesman in Khartoum. He did not give any further details.

"I'm fine. I'm well," Britain's Channel 4 quoted Gibbons as saying. "I want people to know I've been well treated, and especially that I'm well fed.

"I've been given so many apples I feel I could set up my own stall. The guards are constantly asking if I have everything I need.

"The Sudanese people in general have been pleasant and very generous. I've had nothing but good experiences during my four months here. I'm really sad to leave, and if I could go back to work tomorrow then I would."

Concern for Gibbons' safety was sparked on Friday after thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and swords and beating drums, burned pictures of her and demanded her execution during a rally in Khartoum.

"The Sudanese government does want to resolve this matter. ... We hope we can come to an amicable resolution soon," Warsi said after she and Ahmed met Sudanese officials on Saturday.

"They've been very positive so far," Ahmed said in an interview with the BBC.

"We've had very frank discussions, and we are very hopeful that we'll be meeting more ministers and officials and this will continue until such time as we can reach a satisfactory conclusion."

Gibbons, 54, was sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in jail and deportation for insulting Islam by allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad - the name of Islam's prophet. - Sapa-AP

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