Pardon for Islamic gaffe

SUPPORTER: A protester holding placards and a teddy bear sits outside the Sudanese Embassy in London on Saturday., to protest the 15-day [rospm term given to British school teacher, Gillian Gibbons. Pic. Max Nash. 01/12/07. © AP.
SUPPORTER: A protester holding placards and a teddy bear sits outside the Sudanese Embassy in London on Saturday., to protest the 15-day [rospm term given to British school teacher, Gillian Gibbons. Pic. Max Nash. 01/12/07. © AP.

KHARTOUM - The British teacher jailed in Sudan for letting her students name a teddy bear Mohammed won a pardon yesterday and will be released, Sudan's presidency said.

KHARTOUM - The British teacher jailed in Sudan for letting her students name a teddy bear Mohammed won a pardon yesterday and will be released, Sudan's presidency said.

Gillian Gibbons, sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in jail followed by deportation for insulting Islam, was pardoned after an appeal by two prominent British Muslims to Sudan's president for her early release.

An adviser to Sudan's President Hassan al-Bashir, on being asked to confirm Gibbons had been pardoned, said: "Definitely, yes." The news sparked a demonstration outside the British embassy in Khartoum, following protests on Friday in which sword and flag-waving Islamists called for the teacher's death.

Gibbons, who British embassy officials said was in good spirits on Sunday, apologised after the pardon announcement for any discomfort she had caused to the people of Sudan.

"I have been in Sudan for only four months, but I have enjoyed myself immensely. I have encountered nothing but kindness and generosity from the Sudanese people," she said, in a statement read by British Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, one of the peers who met Bashir.

"I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone. I am sorry if I caused any distress." A Sudanese presidential adviser said she was expected to leave Sudan yesterday. Gibbons was leaving for security reasons.

Gibbons provoked a complaint after she let her pupils at Khartoum's private Unity High School pick their favourite name for a teddy bear as part of a project in September.

Twenty out of 23 of them chose Mohammed - a popular boy's name in Sudan, as well as the name of Islam's Prophet. - Reuters

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